Red Bull’s ex-engineering chief thinks Max Verstappen is still ‘weak technically’

Max Verstappen with Guillaume Rocquelin and Ferrari drivers. Mexico October 2018. Credit: Alamy
Max Verstappen with Guillaume Rocquelin and Ferrari drivers. Mexico October 2018. Credit: Alamy

If Max Verstappen has a flaw he needs to work on, it is his technical knowledge – according to Red Bull’s former head of race engineering.

To put a name to the title, that is Guillaume Rocquelin who was Sebastian Vettel’s race engineer after joining Red Bull in 2008 before moving on earlier this year to become their head of driver academy – no doubt reporting to Helmut Marko.

Rocquelin appeared on Eurosport France’s ‘Les Fous du Volant’ podcast and gave a comparison between Vettel and Verstappen, who is now halfway to the four Drivers’ World Championship titles the German won with Red Bull.

Verstappen has many admirable qualities, explained the 48-year-old Frenchman, but he feels Vettel was the “more complete” of the two racers when he stepped up to Red Bull from Toro Rosso in 2009.

“I think Sebastian was a more complete driver than Max when he arrived with us,” said Rocquelin, who was initially David Coulthard’s race engineer before teaming up with Vettel.

“At the professional level, technique, mediation…he was trained at the [Michael] Schumacher ‘school’, who was his idol.

“He asked a lot of questions, took a lot of notes and when he arrived with us he was very thorough. It’s no coincidence he won several titles. He was more prepared technically, mentally.

“I think Max maybe had more natural talent, that’s what he relied on the most. But Sebastian was the most complete.

“Max has always been a boss. He has enormous self-confidence, he knows what he wants and he is very direct.

“But I’ll be honest, Max is weak technically compared to other drivers we’ve worked with. I think he still has a lot of progress to make.

“He is a leader by his attitude, his results. But I think he can improve from a technical point of view and in the way of developing the car.”

Max Verstappen has sated his “desperate hunger” for success

Rocquelin sees a difference between the Verstappen of last year and this, having built on his narrow 2021 title triumph by stamping his authority in the current season with a record-breaking 14 wins and counting.

“What struck me most was he has somewhat lost the ‘desperate hunger’ he had last year,” said Rocquelin.

“He has matured, he has gained consistency. Winning the championship has given him a lot of confidence and he drives in a different way.

“We can’t necessarily speak of a single trigger. It is something progressive. There were several stages.

“He started F1 very young with great ambition and perhaps not the maturity that went with it. He also started with Toro Rosso, who perhaps had less stature and experience.

“Then the stages began when he arrived at Red Bull. There was more confidence in the team, a good record, he was closer to his goal. He won a race immediately with us, which allowed him to take a step forward. Gradually, he won more races and developed links with his engineers.”

Rocquelin was referring, of course, to Verstappen winning on his Red Bull debut at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix – and he feels that was the start of the now 25-year-old’s “era” rather than when he secured his first title.

“He’s always had talent,” said Rocquelin. “To say we are starting an era because he is starting to win titles is not necessarily correct. It started when he won his first race with us.

“Then there is also the quality of the car. We hope to continue to win titles. It’s up to us to make a car that matches its talent.”

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