[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] MAX VERSTAPPEN: UNDER ATTACK

2018 was meant to be Max Verstappen’s year. The Dutchman finished last season with lots of momentum, his two wins in Mexico and Malaysia dominant displays against the might of Mercedes as Red Bull Racing’s RB13 came alive.

Verstappen had also dented his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo’s, reputation, outqualifying the more experienced Australian 13 to seven, including nine of the last 12 events.

And the team was thrilled to get his signature on a contract extension, to the end of 2020 with a vastly increased salary, given Verstappen’s so-far deserved hype as a future world champion.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
"I think the exciting thing about Max is how much potential there is for the future. He's still, as you say,  only 20 years of age and he's at the beginning of his career and I think what's so exciting about him is how much better is he going to get.”

But while Verstappen’s supreme talent is plain to see, as the driver of his generation – there’s no doubt he’s had a difficult start to the year with incidents at all six Grands Prix so far.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN, 
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“At the moment there are good bits and bad things happening at the same weekend. So there has not been like a clean weekend yet.”

The season began in Australia, but Verstappen spun at Turn 1 on Lap 10 – following damage sustained at the start with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. He finished a frustrated fifth, unable to pass McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

Bahrain was next, where the Dutchman crashed out of qualifying Q1 and clashed with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the race on Lap 4 – from which he got a puncture, retiring on the way back to the pits.

In China, Verstappen came close to crashing into Hamilton on Lap 39 in trying to pass for third and then clashed with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the hairpin on Lap 43. He again finished fifth.

Azerbaijan was the big one - a heated battle with his teammate leading to a huge smash, Verstappen moving twice in defense which gave Ricciardo nowhere to go after he committed late to the move.

Spain saw the Dutchman hit Williams’ Lance Stroll, damaging his front wing in the process, but still took his first podium for the year. While Monaco saw him crash at the swimming pool exit in final practice - at exactly the same spot he’d crashed in 2016 – a gearbox change forcing him to miss qualifying and start from the back.

And though he had a clean race, making six of the event’s overtakes, the team knew it was time for a chat.

“Max has an abundance of talent but he’s had some harsh lessons this year,” said Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner. “A modified approach would benefit him."

But others didn’t hold back with their criticism of the Dutchman, with 2016 F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg particularly outspoken.

“At the moment everything is going wrong for him but I don't have much hope for him anymore,” he said.

Canada presents another chance for a clean weekend, the Montreal track one he likes – despite retiring at last year’s race with a battery issue.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN, 
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I definitely enjoy it a lot, and like I said, there’s quite a lot of action normally.”

Verstappen is a gigantic talent, but while no one wants to see him change into a boring racer, now is the time to learn from his mistakes and achieve what everyone knows he’s capable of.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“On the big stage, when the pressure's on, he [Verstappen] has that ability to deliver and I think he's still evolving and developing as a driver and as a young man.”