Verstappen: I won’t change who I am
MAX Verstappen has vowed to remain true to himself and continue to race on the edge after a season in which his temperament came into sharp focus.
The headlines around the world screamed "Mad Max" after the young Dutchman's infamous run-in with Esteban Ocon after the Brazilian Grand Prix last year.
Verstappen was ordered to perform two days of community service after pushing Ocon post-race, furious in the belief that the backmarker had cost him a race win with a late on-track clash.
But the 21-year-old Red Bull Racing star believes it is important to be his own man.
"What I think is important is to always be yourself and be honest,'' Verstappen said.
"I think those two they are very important in Formula One because from your first year until now a lot of things can change, but you as a person, you shouldn't.''
Brazil wasn't the only time Verstappen found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Verstappen and former teammate Daniel Ricciardo were both reprimanded after their dramatic collision at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.
He also didn't take kindly to criticism of his driving style, threatening to "headbutt someone" if he kept getting asked questions about his series of crashes and errors early last season.
Asked if he would have handled anything differently, Verstappen simply said he believed events "always happen for a reason".
"I (have) always thought like that. Things happen for a reason and you learn from every single moment,'' he said.
"The bad ones and also the good ones when you win a race, you always think what can be done better.
"Hopefully this season will be very consistent, without too many issues and we'll have a good season.''
Verstappen said he had grown up "a lot" since bursting on to the Formula One scene as a prodigiously talented teenager.
While experience continues to shape him, he maintains he will always continue to race on the edge.
"As soon as I stop doing that, it's better to stay at home,'' he said.
Despite his run-ins, Verstappen finished fourth in the drivers' championship in 2018 - his best placing to date - with race wins in Austria and Mexico.
Powered by a new Honda engine, Verstappen has a 2019 goal of closing the gap on the two powerhouse teams.
"If you want to win races you have to be as competitive as Mercedes and Ferrari,'' he said.
"We will try to close that gap because I still believe that we are not on the same level in terms of horsepower but we are definitely closing the gap.
"What's driving me is that I want to win every single race. Of course when you start winning a lot of races in a season you are automatically fighting for a title so that is of course the goal … rather sooner than later.''
After three years racing alongside Ricciardo, Verstappen will have a new teammate alongside him - Frenchman Pierre Gasly.
Verstappen maintained he shared a "great relationship" and "respect" with the Australian during their time as teammates.
"(There) was always, for what I think, a lot of respect,'' Verstappen said.
"Of course we had our two little moments, but I think in general we always raced very hard, we were very honest, very open and as a team it was great because we were just pushing each other forward and by that you are also pushing the team forward.
"But that's how life is, things they change and I think it's quite normal in your career to have different teammates, so the time is there to have a different teammate again and we'll see how it's going to work out.''