Max Verstappen says it was clear to him that he had overtaken Lewis Hamilton off the track and had to give the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix back to the Mercedes driver in their thrilling late fight.
Hamilton had pit earlier in both stints in order to gain track position but was being caught rapidly by polesitter Verstappen, with the pair engaging in a battle for the win in the final five laps. Verstappen went around the outside at Turn 4 with a little over three laps remaining but completed the move off track and was instructed to hand the place back, doing so six corners later but then never getting another clear chance to pass.
“Of course (the fight was fun), but it’s also disappointing to be second,” Verstappen said. “It just showed again that track position is super important, even when you think you have the better tires. I was closing quite comfortably but when I got close to Lewis, with how the wind was today in those critical low-speed corners, I just had no grip. Of course, still better grip than Lewis but not enough to make a difference.
“That one lap I had a shot at him but I think the backmarker wasn’t really helping him, giving him a bit of a snap so that was not ideal. I ran a bit wide out of Turn 4 so I had to give the position back. It was just impossible anymore to really go for it — I was always just too far behind. We will analyze what we can do better. Clearly today showed track position was key again.”
Pushed on if it was clear to him to return the place to Hamilton, Verstappen said the instruction was quick from his Red Bull team.
“I knew that I ran out of the track limits, and immediately — Turn 8, I think — they told me so I gave the position back out of Turn 10.
“If I would have let him by later, then it’s an unfair way of giving the position back because then you’re so close and and it’s an easy DRS pass, so I had to do it after Turn 10. It was super hard to follow — I got into Turn 13 and I had a big oversteer (moment) and from there onwards I just didn’t have the tires anymore to attack.
“Of course, my tires were 10 or 11 laps younger but with these cars, that advantage goes away very quickly once you get within 1.5s and like I said before, the wind and the direction it was, it wasn’t helping. With these cars, the last few years, it is very important to have track position and we gave that up today.”