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Max column: A good start is the key to success

This weekend, Max finished second in the Malaysia Grand Prix, behind his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. After three races in which Max lagged behind due to poor starts, he once again conquered the field in Malaysia, giving him his fifth podium spot this season.

“The start problems of the three previous races were, of course, very unfortunate. It’s not like in a normal car, where you release the clutch and drive away. You have to follow a certain procedure and if all goes well, you’re off and running. But for various reasons, this went wrong three times in a row.

The trick at the start is to keep your RPMs as low as possible because it minimizes the wheelspin. But if you go too low, you can go into ‘anti-stall’ mode. That’s what happened at Monza, after having had too much wheelspin in Belgium. It was actually adjusted too aggressively. In Singapore, a technical defect on the clutch arose during the training, which we weren't allowed to repair before the race.

Following all these issues, we naturally made changes, which enabled me to make a good start last weekend. I had to swerve due to that move by Sebastian Vettel, which set me back a couple of places, but thankfully I managed to move back up to third place fairly quickly and finally join the front group.

And of course it was good news for us that Lewis Hamilton’s engine blew up in lap 41. Many people didn’t understand that Daniel and I made a simultaneous pit stop during the virtual safety car. But I don’t think I would have won if I had stayed on the track. At that point, there were 16 laps to go and with new tyres, Daniel would have easily overtaken me. That double pit stop was the best way to secure our 1-2.

In fact, the defining moment of the Grand Prix was my battle with Daniel a bit earlier. We had not received any team orders so we were both free to race. It was a fierce, but fair, fight. If I had managed to overtake him at that point, the roles would have been reversed and I would have entered the pits first. But he defended good and things worked out differently.

Of course I’d rather come in first than second, but this was clearly a fantastic result. Daniel and I push each other to great heights, as was exemplified by this double podium. Other team mates would have forced each other off the track during such a duel. I fought for everything I was worth, which is why it’s great to see the appreciation of the fans, who voted me Driver of the Day.

Last year I got my very first F1 points in Malaysia. And a lot has happened since then. I’ve taken a podium spot five times and am on the heels of the Ferrari drivers in the standings. And of course next weekend in Japan I’ll give it my very best to get closer or even surpass them. I’m already looking forward to the champagne – though preferably not out of a shoe!”

Regards,

Max

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