Max Verstappen admits he didn’t expect to finish on the podium ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as late rain allowed him to secure an “amazing result.”
Red Bull opted to take a new power unit in Sochi after seeing Mercedes’ dominance in Friday practice and the weather forecast for Saturday, and it appeared to pay off with a mixed-up grid. But Verstappen struggled with his tires after making early progress and dropped to seventh place before the final laps saw him pit early and rise to second on intermediate tires.
P20 👉 P2
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“It definitely felt very good crossing the line,” Verstappen said. “We all know how hard it is to pass and especially with the midfield being so competitive this year, it is really hard to get by and also that was shown again today. I of course got by quite a few but then at one point you just get stuck.
“Today also was very hard on the tires. I think they were just graining and opening up very quickly, so then you just lose a lot of grip and it makes you stuck even more and you just can’t really attack any more.
“We just stayed calm, stayed focused, just tried to follow them and basically when the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box — because the lap before, probably, if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track.
“So yeah, to basically go from seventh to second for us today was an amazing result. With the penalty we had and to only lose one spot basically is definitely not too bad. When I woke up this morning I definitely didn’t expect this result.”
Verstappen says he played a big part in making the call to be one of the first drivers on to intermediate tires, while Lando Norris opted to stay out and saw his chance for a win slip away as the rain intensified.
“Naturally when you’re driving on slicks and it starts raining, it’s more of a driver feel, so they kept on asking me. Communication is very important when it’s like that — so they kept on asking me, even though sometimes I couldn’t press the radio button because you’re trying to keep the car on the track.
“I was saying, the lap before, ‘I think we still have to continue,’ because I was only losing like eight, nine seconds and then that lap, when we boxed, at one point it was so hard to keep the car on the track. I was like, ‘We need to box’ but you’re not entirely sure. Then the team said, ‘OK, we’ll box.’ They called me in and it was the right call.”