Max Verstappen says he took the safer option by running wide off the track when fighting Lewis Hamilton in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix despite criticism from Mercedes.
Hamilton was attacking Verstappen for the lead soon after their final pit stops and had pulled ahead using DRS on the racing line on the run to Turn 4. Verstappen braked late on the inside but didn’t make the corner, forcing both drivers off the track and allowing the Red Bull to retain the lead. Toto Wolff said it was “really wrong defense” from Verstappen and “laughable” that there wasn’t a time penalty handed out, but the championship leader stated he chose the safer route.
“We both tried to be ahead into the corner, and so I braked a bit later to try and keep the position and the tires were already a bit worn,” Verstappen said. “So I was really on the edge of grip, so that’s why I think I was already not fully on the apex. And it’s a safer way, of just running a bit wide there. In a way I was, of course, happy that the stewards decided that we could just keep on racing, because I think the racing in general was really good today.”
Hamilton eventually found a way past at the same corner after getting closer out of Turn 3 and using DRS, but Verstappen says he still enjoyed battling with Hamilton and the way the championship keeps ebbing and flowing.
“At one point, Lewis was behind me and I could see there was a lot of pace, and it was already quite tough to match that. I think in general we did all the right calls, and trying to just cover, so there’s not much really to say about that. We were just a bit too slow.
“And this weekend they were very quick on the straights. I, of course, have to get my lap time through the corners, but it was very hard on the tires this weekend, the track. It’s not ideal but otherwise they anyway sail past you so it’s the only thing you can do.
“I mean, I had fun out there. Of course, I like to win but I think second today, with the defense I did, it’s also satisfying and, of course, we’re still ahead in the championship. You can clearly see that one weekend it looks really good for you, then the other weekend it looks really good for them. Hopefully it will keep going like this for the rest of the season.”