Max Verstappen could be the biggest threat to Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of a record eighth Formula 1 title this season but the Red Bull driver was determined to keep a lid on any hype on Thursday.
Asked whether his team could truly challenge for the championship title this year, Verstappen said it was too early for such a discussion, “I don’t know yet. I just don’t want to hype things up at the moment.
“I just want to stay low key and focus on our job. We should do the talking on the track, not next to the track. That’s what I prefer,” he told reporters.
The 23-year-old won two races in 2020 and ended the campaign third overall and the driver closest to the dominant Mercedes duo.
He would doubtless have been runner-up but for five retirements, compared to only one for Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, in a season of 11 podium finishes from 17 races.
Verstappen starts 2021 with his fourth different teammate in four seasons, experienced Mexican Sergio Perez having replaced Thai racer Alexander Albon who followed Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo.
The Dutchman said that while Mercedes must still start as favourites, he and Perez hoped to make it more difficult for them.
Red Bull have also stayed low key with their new car — releasing only carefully-edited studio images online.
Photos sent out after a private test at Silverstone on Wednesday featured last year’s car, which also ran, with the new one missing in action amid media speculation about what they might be hiding.
Verstappen, who won the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi from pole position, said he had wanted more grip and power last year and hoped that had been resolved although the new car had so far run on demonstration tyres only.
“We knew we had a few issues with that car and we wanted to improve it… for us it was important to just get on top of that. Let’s see this year if we improved it even more,” added the Dutchman.
“We worked a lot with Honda also throughout the winter and its all looking promising but it doesn’t make sense now to hype everything up.”
2021 Formula 1 Season Calendar