Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen says his criticism of Red Bull's unreliability early in the 2022 season was down to a fear of losing out on another title.
Verstappen currently sits atop the standings on 258 points from 13 races, having claimed eight wins, and enjoys an 80-point advantage over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
His 2021 title defence got off to a slow start with retirements in two of the first three races, allowing Leclerc to open up a big lead of his own, with the Dutchman highly critical of the team at the time.
He has now explained that these outbursts were in response to believing Leclerc could streak away with the championship, leaving his hopes of being a two-time World Champion in tatters.
Verstappen's response to early retirements
Verstappen was running in second place to Leclerc in both the Bahrain and Australian Grands Prix when he retired with power unit issues, allowing the Monegasque to secure both wins.
After the race in Melbourne, Leclerc was on 71 points, with Verstappen on just 25 thanks to his win in Saudi Arabia.
However, three races later at the Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen was leading the championship after Leclerc retired with engine failure while leading.
The Red Bull driver has not lost the lead since, and believes that the team "cannot have retirements" in title fights.
"[In] F1, and also in go-karting, [you get] experience that things can change very quickly," he explained to Channel 4's David Coulthard.
"When you have retirements, you cannot... when you're fighting for a title, you cannot have them – and that's why I was very critical [of the team]. We cannot have retirements if you want to fight for the championship.
"Luckily for us, it also happened to our competition, but not from now onwards, you cannot rely on that, because people will learn, people improve their products, and you have to score points every single weekend."
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Verstappen learning to deal with defeat
Verstappen then said: "Of course, you always hope for the best, and score the maximum amount of points, but you also have to settle for whatever it is if you can't win, and that's what I've learned over the years of Formula 1 as well.
"You know, sometimes I went a bit too aggressive, you make a mistake, you lose all the points."
In his title winning year, Verstappen only retired from three races – the Azerbaijan (tyre failure), British and Italian Grands Prix (collisions with Lewis Hamilton).
His last DNF related to reliability concerns, and not accidents, prior to the 2022 season came at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, when the Red Bull suffered a power unit problem.
Jos's warning to Max before F1
Verstappen also told former Williams, McLaren and Red Bull driver Coulthard that his father Jos had actually questioned him on making the jump straight from Formula 3 to Formula 1 in 2015 as a 17-year-old, but he allayed his father's concerns.
"I only did one year in F3 before I got to F1, but at the time when I was about to sign in F1, my dad also asked me: 'Are you sure about making that jump?'," he explained.
"I said: 'Yes, because I want to be there, and even if I make mistakes there, at least I am in, and then we'll see what happens'.
"So we went through it, of course, and luckily, it's all working out quite well. But it was a big learning curve, for sure."
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