Max Verstappen says that tires were the only concern for him on his way to a dominant victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the winning margin was still a surprise.
Leading away from pole position, Verstappen eased away from the Mercedes drivers behind him and held the fastest lap for much of the race too. While he led throughout the race, Verstappen saw Daniel Ricciardo snatch the extra point on the final lap, but had been more concerned with simply making it to the finish without issue as he held such a comfortable advantage.
“It was an enjoyable race,” Verstappen said. “We had a decent start I think and from there onwards I could manage the gap and could look after my tires. And then of course the safety car came out at a little bit of an unfortunate time, because we then had to do a very long stint on the hard.
“Luckily the tire coped with it but you still have to manage it a bit more. The car was really good today. Just a good balance and then you can also look after your tires and I could then build a gap all the way through the race.
“Just a little bit of vibration on the tire (was a worry), so I was thinking back a little bit to Spa but also of course Imola. I was keeping an eye on it on every straight. But yeah, luckily all good. The pace was still there. The tires were still performing.”
Winning by over 15 seconds, Verstappen admits the weekend had proven a better one than expected, even if Mercedes was nursing an MGU-K concern.
“To be honest, before I got here I didn’t expect to win the race and be on pole, so maybe a little bit (surprised). Of course I also read that they had to turn the engines down a bit, so that’s not helping for them. In general I think still the car performed very strong and better than expected, so of course very happy with that.
“It’s a great way to finish the season, it’s a good boost for everyone in the team here and of course at the factory. I just hope of course that we learn from the previous years that we have to be stronger in the beginning of the season to be able to give them a little bit of a harder time.”