Max Verstappen says his current successes are a result of choosing to remain with Red Bull when the drinks-backed squad was not in contention for the World Championship.
Verstappen joined Red Bull midway through the 2016 season, and took a fairy-tale win on his debut outing for the team at that year's Spanish Grand Prix.
But with Mercedes remaining dominant for the next few years, Verstappen didn't score more than three wins per season until 2021, when the RB16B allowed him to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton for that year's title.
Having snatched the 2021 Championship in controversial fashion at the last round in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen appears set to retain his crown this year.
Before the 2022 season began, Verstappen signed a new contract tying him to Red Bull until 2028, and said he felt vindicated in having previously chosen to commit his future to the team even when they were not in title-winning contention.
"It is really enjoyable to be part of the team, and it is a really good team atmosphere," Verstappen told media including RacingNews365.com.
"And I always find that that's the most important. Even if you're not winning, if the team atmosphere is good, then you can improve a lot over time, and you have to be patient as well, you cannot force things. That's what I always learned.
"I could have [moved to another team] and tried to chase immediate success, but I trusted the process, and I believe in the people in the team and it's paying off, so I'm very happy."
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Verstappen happier with trimmer RB18
Verstappen comes into the Italian Grand Prix weekend having won the previous four races, with a particularly dominant victory coming at Spa, where he won convincingly despite having started 14th after a grid penalty.
The Dutchman noted that his RB18 has improved as the season has worn on, with its uptick in performance coinciding with the chassis having shed a few pounds since the first race in Bahrain.
"It's been really good, of course, the last few races, but I already said before, it was mainly just because of the weight," Verstappen said of early-season difficulties with the RB18.
"The car was very heavily overweight initially, and that doesn't help the balance of the car, because it becomes a little bit lazy, and also [the weight distribution is] in the wrong place, and that's why it understeered quite a bit."
F1 Podcast: What's next in F1's 2023 driver market?
Max Verstappen took his tenth win of 2022 at Zandvoort, but once again there was plenty of attention on off-track matters, with Oscar Piastri confirmed at McLaren for 2023, and Alpine left licking their wounds and searching for another driver.
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