‘That’s how it should be every single weekend!’ - Verstappen’s shift in luck
Flying Dutchman Max Verstappen acquired Red Bull’s first podium in Russia on Sunday, which was a welcome result after his recent races.
Third time lucky
Though Verstappen endured two consecutive pointless races at Monza and Mugello - retiring from both - he was back in force at the Sochi Autodrom. He managed to put his RB16 in second place during qualifying, splitting the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton on pole and Valtteri Bottas in third and, despite a poor start which saw him drop to fourth, cut through the front of the field and maintained second place all the way to the checkered flag.
Photo credit: Red Bull
Originally having been stuck in third, Verstappen was promoted to second place after Hamilton pitted to take his two five-second penalties for pre-race infringements.
“That’s how it should be every single weekend!” said Verstappen after the celebrations had simmered down. “Of course it was not good the last two weekeneds and I think now to be back on the podium and in second, I think for us, is a great result on a track where normally we are not that competitive, and we never scored a podium before as well, so very happy with that.”
Verstappen was struggling from the start with his Medium tyres, but the switch to hards proved beneficial and allowed him to make up lost time and cross the line with 18 points.
Photo credit: Red Bull
“The start was pretty bad,” he confessed. “It was just so low grip on the inside, the right-hand side, so it seemed like everybody had a really poor start… On the first lap I had a little bit of a battle with Daniel to get back into third, and I had a nice off-road experience through the bollards, so it was… nice!
“And from there onwards, on the Medium tyres, I was just not having a great balance, a bit like I had in Q1 and Q2 yesterday where I just couldn’t push the entries of the corners and I couldn’t keep up with [the Mercedes].
“So I just tried to, of course, not lose too much time. And then once we pitted, put the hard tyres on, everything was a bit more stable and a bit better balanced, so I was pleased with that. The second stint was pretty okay, so very happy with second.”
Despite his mighty pace, upon being asked if he had thought a win was at all possible, Verstappen replied: “No, because [Bottas] was already too far ahead anyway. Once we pitted [his lead] was, like, 12 seconds or something, so that’s very hard to close. And anyway, following around here on the same tyre, more or less the same pace, I think is very difficult.”
A new challenge awaits in Germany
Formula 1’s next destination on the 2020 calendar is the Nurburgring, for the Eifel Grand Prix; a historic reunion in which arguably the world’s most prestigious sport returns to one of the most infamous tracks. Forecasted cold temperatures will pose a new challenge to the grid after the recent string of warm summer races… how will the paddock fare in Germany?