Max Verstappen says his “amazing” victory in the Austrian Grand Prix was important as it has brought him back in touch with the rest of the top six drivers in the drivers’ championship.
In a dramatic race at the Red Bull Ring, Verstappen overtook Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap to run third behind the two Mercedes drivers, before Valtteri Bottas retired to promote him to second. A strategic error by Lewis Hamilton’s team enabled Verstappen to take a lead he would not relinquish despite pressure from Kimi Raikkonen, promoting the Dutchman to fifth in the drivers’ championship, 53 points off leader Sebastian Vettel.
“It was amazing,” Verstappen said. “It was very hard to manage the tires as well. We really had to look after them — a little blistering, but we managed to hang on until the end. Of course it’s amazing to win here with a Red Bull at the Red Bull Ring and also so many Dutch fans around here. It’s incredible.
“I needed to catch up with the points. Today was definitely a very good day for me and I just hope we can continue like this.”
Verstappen admitted the pace he was able to show was a surprise with Red Bull having been clearly third quickest during the race simulations on Friday.
“I think it was a bit unexpected, especially after our Friday pace and in the long runs. I think in the first stint we could actually keep up quite well — and then yeah, I just tried to do my own race.
“I saw Valtteri disappearing with a problem, and then I think we made the right call when the Virtual Safety Car came out, that we pitted. The team, again, great call on that, and then virtually I was in the lead, and I just tried to do my own pace.
“Initially from behind there was no pressure. I think I could build up a gap, and yeah, at one point, when Lewis pitted and Kimi started to put Daniel under pressure, and he started to struggle with his tires, and then once I think Kimi was in second, and I tried to manage the gap — but at one point I could see my tires also opening up a bit on the rears and the fronts, so I just had to drive around the issue and luckily I could manage it until the end of the race.”