Max Verstappen to his critics: You aren't going to change me, so stop trying

Max Verstappen is probably going to be Formula One world champion one day. If and when he gets there, it's unlikely he will have done so having taken the advice of many from outside his inner circle.

It is easy to forget that the driver enjoying Verstappen's current vein of form was the same one being criticised heavily by F1's media at the start of 2018. A horrible run of mistakes -- including those which cost him a good shot at victory in China and Monaco -- saw him on the defensive in the early part of the season.

It was clearly a period of time he did not enjoy. Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix in June he said, half-jokingly, that he might "headbutt" the next person to ask him about his run of form before then. Fittingly, Canada actually marked the start of his turnaround, with a third position which he followed up with second in France, before claiming a shock win -- the fourth of his young career -- at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman only turned 21 at the end of September but is into his fourth season in Formula One, making him an odd blend of youth and experience which is still rare at the top level of professional sports. After a clash at the Chinese Grand Prix with Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel said using the Dutchman's age as an excuse was invalid due to his time in the sport already.

Verstappen would agree. While he thinks he is still maturing as a driver, he blames the events of the start of the year on one of his favourite topics -- Red Bull's underpowered Renault challenger.

"I think if I had a championship-winning car this year those mistakes wouldn't have been there, because you don't always have to drive at 102, 103 percent," Verstappen told ESPN at an event hosted by Red Bull fuel supplier Exxon Mobil in Austin, Texas.

"It's kind of over-driving, you want to get the best out of it, and sometimes it didn't work out. But then also, when you have so much horsepower on the straight, you think, 'Well maybe I'll wait one more corner because I'll take him on the straight.'

"What we have to do is really do-or-die dive into a corner to get past. In terms of defending as well, that has to be done quite aggressively. So you became a completely different driver when you have a championship-winning car."

At the time, some suggested Verstappen's mistakes were rooted in a fundamentally flawed race-craft. While the phenomenally quick but occasionally rash youngster is one of the most exciting talents to have emerged in F1 in the modern era, it is hard to ignore the string of incidents which have littered his career so far. But he insists nothing has changed in the months which followed Canada.

Asked specifically about the criticism, he said: "Most of it was just very unfair, so of course at one point I get tired of it. I know what I can do; it was just not coming out at the time, so I was working very hard at home to make sure it did come out. And then in Canada it did.

"I think I just needed a break from the bad string of results. I didn't change anything in the way I was preparing for the weekend because I kept believing in myself that it would turn around."

The reference to a driver not making mistakes when in a championship-winning car seems apt in a season which has seen Vettel make numerous errors in his title fight with Lewis Hamilton. One of the Ferrari driver's most recent errors was a clash with Verstappen in Suzuka, one which saw both drivers blame the other but was seen as one final knockout blow in Vettel's hopes of beating Hamilton to a fifth world title.

Verstappen believes the reaction to Vettel's current run compared to his own is telling.

"You see even a four-time world champion can make mistakes like that," he said. "People saying I had to change my driving style, to me that was all big bulls---, to be honest.

"They don't tell Sebastian to really change his driving style, I've never seen the headlines like that. At the end of the day, driving on the limit, sometimes over it to achieve the best out of it, especially at such high speeds... mistakes are easily done."

"Maybe the people who watch it know better. Sometimes I watch a football match and I think I know better, but at the end of the day, we don't. So I think people need to appreciate more what we are trying to achieve in the car."

When asked if it would even be easy to just change his driving style overnight, he said: "You can't. Even if people tell you to do that, that's how you grew up and that's how you are.

"It's like telling a football player who is always kicking with the left foot, suddenly telling them, 'No, you have to kick them with the right.' It's the same. Some people can do both, left or right, but most of them are left-footed or right-footed and you can't just make that switch overnight. I'm not going to tell [Robin] van Persie how to play football, and people shouldn't tell me how to drive."