Why Verstappen tested a Ferrari GT3 car for DTM team Emil Frey

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Verstappen caused a fair degree of intrigue last month when pictures began circulating of the Dutchman testing for DTM team Emil Frey in Portugal. While it is known that team regular and fellow Dutchman Thierry Vermeulen is supported by Verstappen, the fact that their connection was so close that he would spend two days testing his car caused a surprise.

It was from a fun track day, as both Verstappen and Emil Frey worked together to devise an intensive test programme with different set-ups and clearly defined goals. As team boss Lorenz Frey-Hilti explained, the objective was to use the F1 star’s experience behind the wheel and assist the development of 21-year-old Vermeulen.

“The aim of the test with Max was to support Thierry and also to improve our performance with his feedback,” Frey-Hilti told Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com. “He drove on both days. On the first day, it was about 100 laps and they took turns. We tried out a lot.

“We are honoured that he uses our services as a racing team and that we are able to work with him on the test days. That is absolutely brilliant.”

The fathers of Verstappen and Vermeulen were also present at the Algarve circuit in Portimao for the test. This was no coincidence as Jos Verstappen acts as a driver coach for Thierry Vermeulen, while the latter’s father Raymond acts as Max’s manager.

Frey-Hilti was thoroughly impressed to see Max Verstappen behind the wheel, praising him for what he could achieve even in a GT3 car.

Photo by: Verstappen.com / David Klopman

Max Verstappen, Emil Frey Racing, Portimao Test

“It’s always interesting when you meet such famous people in person,” he said. “You think you know the person, but when you meet them in real life, you experience a completely different person. He’s incredibly down-to-earth and a really nice guy. 

“And it’s nice to see how much passion he has for motorsport and what he achieves. 

“Even with a GT3 car his feedback is on another level compared to everything I’ve seen so far. He is world class.”

Verstappen has limited experience in GT3 machinery but he was able to adapt to the Ferrari 296 in little-to-no time, according to Frey-Hilti.

 “He gets in the car and on the very first flying lap he delivers the performance,” he revealed. “If you look at his onboards and data, the way he can handle the car is extremely impressive. How quickly he adapts to the car and always tries to get the maximum out of it.  

“There were also other GT3 cars on site. And I can only say that it is on a different level compared to all the others.”

Vermeulen is a relative newcomer to motor racing, having started competing in GT4s in only 2020. He finished 16th in his maiden DTM season in 2023 for Emil Frey, securing a best finish of fifth at the Sachsenring.

Verstappen’s speed meant Vermeulen had a lot to learn from his more experienced countryman.

“Thierry is very ambitious and of course he measures himself against Max’s times,” said Frey-Hilti. “That’s tough, because his benchmark is the best driver in the world. 

“There are many good formula drivers who don’t shine because of their lack of experience in a GT3 car. Max is different. He can move anything with four wheels incredibly fast.”

Photo by: Verstappen.com / David Klopman

Max Verstappen and Thierry Vermeulen, Emil Frey Racing, Portimao Test

The two-day test not only helped Vermeulen but was also of great advantage to Emil Frey, which left the Lamborghini fold to race the new Ferrari 296 in 2023.

Verstappen had already helped the team gain crucial tenths at a previous test at Mugello in July 2023.

“Especially in terms of vehicle development, he’s brilliant there,” Frey-Hilto said of Verstappen. 

“The physics are the same everywhere and it’s a different vehicle concept, but his input, when you can test different settings with him, helps the performance of the vehicle immensely. 

“Of course, today we have an incredible amount of data that we can analyse and in the end the drivers have to be able to implement it.

“But even at the last test we were able to gain so much new experience in just two days and improve the car. This not only strengthens Thierry, but also us as a team immensely.”

He added: “It’s always amazing how precise his statements are. He is extremely into it and you can also see that he is constantly tinkering with the set-ups in e-gaming. 

“I was also amazed at how interested he is in motorsport in general alongside Formula 1. He knows about every racing series, every driver, every team. 

“When others go on their well-deserved holidays, he is still in full training and involved in racing. I think that’s what makes him a world champion.”

Apart from the test, Verstappen also visited the Emil Frey workshop in Safenwil, Switzerland prior to the Las Vegas Grand Prix in November.

“It was his wish to see our racing workshop and how we are set up in order to make plans for the future together,” the Emil Frey boss said.

“And he is also a simulator specialist and tried out our facility. As he has already driven our car on the racetrack, he was able to give us great feedback on how we can improve.”

Photo by: Verstappen.com / David Klopman

Max Verstappen, Emil Frey Racing, Portimao Test


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