Max Verstappen said he felt like he was racing with one lung in Saudi Arabia and is still not match-fit for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
Verstappen delayed his arrival at the last round in Jeddah a fortnight ago by 24 hours as he battled a virus. He finished second behind Sergio Perez.
The Dutchman holds a slender one-point championship lead over his Red Bull team-mate ahead of the third race in Melbourne, and is planning to use the three-week break between the races here at Melbourne’s Albert Park and Azerbaijan on April 30 to return to good health.
“I was not looking forward to the break but then I got really ill and I have just been struggling since that time,” said Verstappen, 25.
“I refused to believe in myself for a long time because, at home, I was really ill. I could barely walk around and I felt like I was missing a lot.
“I got to Saudi Arabia believing that the virus was gone because normally when you get sick, after two or three days you are alright and you can do your workouts.
“But then I jumped into the car for practice, and even after just one lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally. It felt like I was missing a lung.”
A good recovery 💪— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 19, 2023
Happy to be on the podium here in Jeddah. This is a great team result 🙌 @redbullracing @HondaRacingGLB pic.twitter.com/pfEDOP0WrX
Verstappen broke down with a mechanical failure in qualifying in Saudi Arabia, before carving his way through the field from 15th.
He continued: “It definitely did affect me, which I didn’t like because it was one of the first races where I felt like I was physically limited.
“That’s really frustrating when you’re out in the car, but since then I’ve been trying to work on it, trying to improve it, and it has improved a lot.
“But for me now these next three weeks are just about getting back to full fitness. Hopefully for the rest of the year it should be okay.”