Max Verstappen believes a less ambitious approach by Red Bull in launching its new Formula 1 car as late as possible could be key to helping it hit the ground running in 2018.
Red Bull has traditionally opted to maximise development time of its new cars each winter by being one of the last teams to complete its design.
While this in theory should give the team an extra performance boost because of increased wind tunnel work, this can cause compromises in terms of preparations for the season ahead.
And amid some analysis going on about why Red Bull has traditionally not started recent seasons as strongly as it has finished them, Verstappen has suggested that a change of approach to new car planning could pay off.
Speaking about what he felt Red Bull needed to do differently this winter to ensure it started 2018 as strong as possible, Verstappen said: “I think just some different things in procedures, maybe not so late with the car in terms of bringing it out. That is for the team to really work on, that is not my decision.
“But for sure they have learned from what happened also this year, with the new regulations. I am very confident that next year it will be a lot better from the start already.”
Asked if he felt Red Bull had been over-ambitious in the past by leaving things so late with new car timing, Verstappen said: “Yeah. Maybe just stop it a bit earlier at that time, the development, but then drive the car because you learn a lot in driving the car.“
With Red Bull having recovered well from its early season troubles, which were triggered by wind tunnel correlation issues, Verstappen said the RB13 was finally the car he had hoped to have at the start of the campaign.
“That is what we wished,” he said. “But I think we have learned our lessons and hopefully next year we can start straight away very competitive.
“It’s a completely different car in terms of my feeling with the balance. It’s a lot more complete. The first few races the car was really unpredictable.
“You would change something on the car and it was doing something completely different to what the engineers would think or we would think. It was really, really difficult to set up.
“Now it’s more aligned with what they predict, and that’s always very positive. You can see that we were really far behind. Some races we were like a minute behind. To be able to come from that to where we are now is of course very impressive.”
After a difficult campaign that has been hit by reliability, Verstappen admitted that the success in Sepang had served to lift his belief in the team once again.
“Up until Malaysia it was really a season to forget,” he said. “Now at least there’s a little bit of a positive, even though I still missed a lot of points.
“In general we’re heading in the right direction and into next year everything should be in a better place. We should be more competitive straight away.”
Asked what difference it made to his mindset compared to the earlier season troubles, Verstappen said: “I still had a good feeling, it was just unfortunate there were no results.
“This just motivates me again and shows me again that when everything goes well there is a good result.”