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Exclusive: Newey reveals Verstappen's greatest strengths

Speaking exclusively with RacingNews365.com, Red Bull's legendary Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, has spoken about Max Verstappen's unique strengths as a racing driver.

Adrian Newey has encountered many of the heroes of Formula 1's modern age over his 30+ years working with some of the sport's biggest teams. Cars penned by Newey have resulted in championships for the likes of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen and Sebastian Vettel. At the end of 2021, Max Verstappen was added to that list as he used the Red Bull RB16B to defeat Lewis Hamilton in the title fight. With the Dutchman becoming the most recent driver to reach the pinnacle of F1 with a Newey creation, RacingNews365.com approached the legendary designer to chat about Verstappen's unique skills and strengths as a racing driver.

What are Verstappen's greatest strengths?

"What makes any great sportsman?" Newey pondered as he sat down with RacingNews365.com during pre-season testing in Bahrain in early March. "Obviously, you have to have a unique genetic makeup that makes you good at whatever your sport is, so Formula 1 is [the] judgement of speed, reactions, balance, etc. "That gets you to a certain level and, of course, you see some drivers that are naturally very good, but don't perhaps achieve as much as they should do. And you see other drivers who are the opposite. "I think Max is one of those ones that combines both – where he has an obviously tremendous natural ability, but he also has an inner determination and grit to him that shines through."

What kind of feedback does Verstappen provide?

Despite his successes, Verstappen is still one of the youngest drivers on the grid at just 24 years old. While Newey comes from the old-school days of F1, with data-led simulations very much in their infancy during his initial years in the sport, he explained that Verstappen's technical feedback is hugely helpful for him and his team to identify and address shortcomings with their cars. "Max is a very good example of the modern driver," said Newey, before expanding on how the role as evolved. "Obviously, [when] you go back to before data recorders, the only thing the race engineer had to go on really was the driver's feedback. So the feedback of the driver, and the feel the driver had, was all-important. "Now, with data recorders, you could argue that you don't need that. But, in my view, in truth you do, because data recorders tell you what the car is doing. "[But it's] very difficult to see why the car is doing it – that's where the driver comes in. So his feedback is important, and then it's trying to marry the two. "Max's feedback... [he] won't tell you, 'I think I should stiffen the front spring' or something [like that]. But he will tell you, in great accuracy, what the car is doing. And that, for the engineer, is incredibly important."

Where does Verstappen rank amongst the greats?

Given Newey's impressive resumé of World Champions that have achieved glory at the wheel of his cars, one might expect that the designer would have a pecking order in his mind about how they all compare against each other. But Newey good-naturedly batted the question away, when asked where Verstappen ranks, in his eyes, against the likes of Hakkinen, Mansell and Hill. "I'm really not gonna be drawn into that," he commented. "I've been lucky enough to work with some of the all-time greats. To then rank those, I think it's A. not possible, and B. would be very unfair to do so, in any case!"

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