Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen has revealed a bet he made with his Red Bull engineers when testing the RB19 for the first time.
In Bahrain, Verstappen and Red Bull set their status as the combination to beat in 2023 with an impressive showing, backed up by teammate Sergio Perez topping the time sheets on Saturday.
Before heading to Bahrain, Verstappen conducted a shakedown of the RB19 at Silverstone on one of Red Bull's allotted filming days - which allow 100km of running.
Catching up with media in Sakhir after his test had come to an end, the two-time World Champion revealed how he made a challenge to his engineers at Silverstone earlier in February - one they did not believe was possible.
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Verstappen's Red Bull bet
"It was very cold and the track was still a bit frozen and you could see that salt had been spread," Verstappen told select media, including RacingNews365.
"We drove a few laps in a normal [road] car, and then I said to my engineer [Gianpiero Lambiase]: 'I think I should be full throttle from the very first corner.'
"He said: 'No, no, you can't.' I replied: 'Just watch!'
"Then I went out and felt [how the car handles] for a moment and thought 'that feels good,' then I immediately went full throttle through the corner.
"That was a lot of fun. It also meant I was immediately confident in the car.
"It was the same here in Bahrain, and after about five laps, you are pretty much where you want to be, provided the car feels good.
"The car felt good, but there are always things that could be better."
A good step forward
In 2022, the Verstappen-Red Bull combination crushed the field with 15 wins and 454 points, with Perez adding a further two wins as they claimed their first Constructors' Championship since '13.
Despite the dominance of the RB18, Verstappen believes the new RB19 is a successful evolution.
"Compared with last year, I think it is a step forward," he added.
"But that's also because last year's car was overweight and it was the first year of the new generation of car.
"During the year you obviously learn a lot, which makes it easier to start [learning] now - and I think we have done that."
Verstappen did highlight one problem with the RB19 - although this is something that will affect the whole grid: the tyres.
Pirelli have been working on dialling understeer from the front tyres, but Verstappen feels this has come at a cost elsewhere.
"In terms of driving, it really depends on the tyres being modified," he said.
"They have less understeer, but that's mainly because the rear tyres are not as good. The front tyres are still the same, but overall, I think the car is just a little bit better balanced."
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