Sky Sports F1 Podcast: Max Verstappen's former performance coach Brad Scanes reveals Lewis Hamilton 'mind games'

2 April 2024, 17:31 | Updated: 3 April 2024, 10:03

Max Verstappen's former performance coach Brad Scanes revealed what life is like in the world champion's inner circle, on the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

Scanes spent four seasons working with Red Bull's Verstappen, the last three of which resulted in drivers' titles, before leaving the role at the end of 2023.

UK-based Scanes explained how sharing a similar mindset to Verstappen, the driver's father Jos and business manager Raymond Vermeulen helped him to quickly fit in with the group.

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"I think just clarity of vision," Scanes said. "We were all there to achieve the same thing. We were all there to win a world championship and guide Max through that. But also have a good time doing it as well.

"They're a very open and honest group as well, and that suited the way that I like to work as well. So if someone's not happy about something, nothing ever goes unsaid. You sort it out there and then. If you make a mistake, you come in and say, 'sorry, mate, I made a mistake.' And chat it out if it needs to be chatted out, or we just say, 'yeah, that's fine,' and move on from there.

"So clarity of vision, communication, and open, and honesty. And for me, it was beautiful because I really was part of the family. They would invite me to kind of birthdays and stuff while I was in Monaco. I'd be around his, or I'd go out for dinner with his manager or a beer with his dad, without him as well.

"It doesn't go unnoticed that that's a huge part of his success as well. And you extend that group as well because you've got a very close-knit team of engineers around him as well. So his race engineer, his performance engineer and they fit in the same way.

"On a race weekend, it would be Max, his dad, his manager, me, race engineer, performance engineer, we would go out for dinner and it would be that sort of close-knit group. So it really works and I think it's been a big part of the success that we've had and he'll continue to have."

Verstappen played 'little mind games' with Hamilton

Verstappen's first drivers' title came in the most intense and dramatic of circumstances in 2021 as he came out on top in a thrilling battle with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The fierce battle went down to the final race of the season as Verstappen triumphed after a controversial decision from the race director gave the Dutchman the opportunity to pass Hamilton on the final lap.

Reflecting on the battle, Scanes explained how "mind games" naturally became a part of the contest between the Verstappen and Hamilton.

"As someone in sport, working in sport, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of that season," Scanes said. "We just witnessed two of the best go at it head-to-head, neck and neck, and you don't often get that opportunity.

"It's the little things they'll try and do to get one over each other. In the cool down room after a race, who could be the longest to get ready and take the most time. And it's those little mind games that those two were playing with each other.

"I think back to when I used to play football, I used to play central defence, and if you had a really good striker, you'd give him a little elbow, you'd pull his shirt a little bit, you'd tread on his toe a little bit. It's the little things like that which kind of crop up and stuff. So there were often a few conversations on race strategy and that sort of thing. But little things like that, they just seem to come.

"And you see it in the very best when you're in a title fight, those little things, they do come. You think back to, again, football analogies, because I'm a football fan, but think of the big years when Man United and Arsenal were going at it, or (Jose) Mourinho with Real Madrid against Barcelona and the comments in the media and the mind games and the touchline sort of stuff. So similar bits to that."

Does Verstappen play PlayStation between F1 sessions?

Verstappen has a reputation for enjoying video games, with the 26-year-old a regular competitor in the growing field of virtual motorsport competition.

He is also known to have enjoyed playing football game FIFA (now known as EA FC), with there having been speculation that he would use a games console between F1 sessions at the track to unwind.

"It's a bit of a myth that it was kind of before or in between sessions," Scanes explained. "We never had the PlayStation at track or anything like that.

"It was only like going back and playing in the evening. It could be FIFA, it could be Call of Duty, it could be some virtual racing. But it was his way to switch off, get downtime and spend some time with his friends because they're all on there as well. And that can't go unnoticed because we're away."

"We're in a hotel room and in the last two years, Max hasn't really been able to go out, even go out for dinner and stuff because it's impossible with the fans and the hype around it, super difficult.

"So having that ability to be able to communicate with your friends and have that downtime and think about something else, again, probably can't go unnoticed in terms of how successful he's been switching off and then being able to shift back into, 'okay, we're back to kind of F1.' I think that's super, super important."

"I played a few times, got beat a few times. It took me three years to beat him but I finally did. It was on a plane journey, actually. I finally got one over. I definitely celebrated."

Sky Sports F1's live Japanese GP schedule

Thursday April 4
4.30am: Drivers' press conference

Friday April 5
3am: Japanese GP Practice One (session starts at 3.30am)*
6.45am: Japanese GP Practice Two (session starts at 7am)*
8.15am: The F1 Show*
10am: Japanese GP Practice One replay
11.30am: Japanese GP Practice Two replay

Saturday April 6
3.15am: Japanese GP Practice Three (session starts at 3.30am)*
6am: Japanese GP Qualifying build-up*
7am: Japanese GP Qualifying*
9am: Ted's Qualifying Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese GP Qualifying replay

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
6am: The JAPANESE GRAND PRIX*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted's Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1's biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

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