Verstappen Discusses Mercedes’ ‘Party Mode’ Influence

Max Verstappen expressed significant irritation over what he perceived as an unfair advantage during the Mercedes team’s prime, specifically pointing to their qualifying “party mode” as a factor that “misrepresented” the actual level of competition.

During an era marked by Mercedes’ unparalleled success in Formula 1, where they amassed eight consecutive Constructors’ Championship titles from 2014 to 2021, it was Verstappen and his Red Bull team that ultimately disrupted Mercedes’ dominance in the V6 turbo-hybrid era.

Verstappen secured his initial World Championship in 2021, further solidifying his position as F1’s leading figure by winning three World Championships.

Meanwhile, Red Bull has achieved consecutive Constructors’ titles, highlighting a significant shift in the sport’s competitive landscape. However, Verstappen’s journey to the top with Red Bull was challenging.

Beginning with a triumphant debut at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen quickly realized the magnitude of the task ahead.

Despite his confidence in his capabilities, the continued success of Mercedes served as a source of growing frustration, as it seemed to overshadow his achievements and potential.

Verstappen said “I found it very frustrating back then when I couldn’t win, Because you have the feeling that you can do it – but you can’t show it.

“That’s why I’m very happy in the position I’m in now. This is what I dreamed of. I hoped it would turn out like this. Now that the situation has arrived, I’m obviously trying to make the most of it.”

Verstappen has indeed excelled, amassing an impressive total of 54 Grand Prix victories, with a stunning 19 of those wins occurring in the F1 2023 season alone.

Despite achieving these wins from 32 pole positions, questions about Verstappen’s proficiency have been raised, suggesting he shines brighter in races than in qualifying sessions.

This notion is particularly linked to the performance of Red Bull’s 2023 vehicle, the RB19, which seemed to come alive in Verstappen’s hands during races.

Verstappen countered by highlighting the influence of Mercedes’ dominance in qualifying before his rise to prominence, attributing his pole-to-win conversion rate partly to the competitive dynamics of that period.

A significant change came in 2020 with a rule prohibiting the alteration of engine modes during qualifying. This addressed the advantage Mercedes gained from their “party mode,” which allowed for an extra burst of speed over a single lap, ideally positioning them for race day.

This mode was seen as skewing the real competitive balance, with Verstappen suggesting that it obscured the true race day capabilities of Red Bull’s cars, rather than demonstrating their superiority in race conditions.

When questioned whether his higher rate of wins compared to pole positions was due to the inherent strengths of the Red Bull car or his prowess in racing over qualifying, Verstappen acknowledged “That’s true, but I don’t think our car was that much faster in the race back then.

“Sometimes it looked like we were close in qualifying. But I think it’s always difficult to say because you never know how good the other guys’ laps were, and then it was also the case that one particular engine manufacturer had a party mode from 2014 to 2017 or 2018.

“If they wanted, they had more in their hands. So there was a bit of a distorted picture at that time. They did it very smartly, because why show everything when you’re winning anyway? Of course, there is a pole-to-win ratio… But I always see it like this: points are scored on Sunday. Saturdays are not so important.”

On this matter, Verstappen emphasized that although he wouldn’t pass up the chance to secure pole position, it’s the race on Sunday that truly captures his “love.”

“I love Sunday more,” he stated. “I enjoy Sunday more – but if I have a good car on Saturday, I obviously also try to put it on pole.

“Sometimes it’s just the characteristics of the car or something like that. With less petrol, the cars are also closer together. This sometimes masks small weaknesses in the cars. There are many things behind it.”