Max Verstappen says he waited to time his overtake on Charles Leclerc once he had a big performance advantage to be able to pull away from the Ferrari to win the Sprint at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The defending world champion started from pole position but had a poor getaway and dropped to second off the line, with Leclerc looking comfortable in the first half of the race. As Verstappen closed in later on, the championship leader had no response and on the penultimate lap Verstappen swept by to take the lead and instantly pulled 1.5 seconds clear to secure victory.
“The start was very bad,” Verstappen said. “I don’t know exactly what happened or why it was so bad but today we had to stay calm. Initially it looked like Charles had a bit more pace but eventually he ran out of tires and we could close the gap and go for the move into Turn 2. Tomorrow it might be a bit different but today it worked out for us to be on this compound. So, very happy to have a clean sprint race at the end.
“I think we were pretty much flat out — there’s not many laps anyway. Of course we knew on these tires, it was going to be tough at the end of the race, the last few laps, but it worked out for us.
“I don’t think (the pace difference) was because of the DRS. I think it was more because Charles was struggling more with the graining, so then of course I could close up and use the DRS to get by. I think it was more just a bit of a waiting game because every lap it just seemed that the gap, or the difference, between the two cars was just getting bigger in terms of lap time.”
Verstappen questioned the gear sync on his car when he lost out at the start and despite starting on the dirty side of the grid he believes it was a Red Bull weakness that cost him the lead.
“Lando (Norris) had a decent start (from the same side) so there’s no excuse. My start was just terrible and yeah I didn’t have gear sync for whatever reason. So I need to see exactly what went wrong.
“It was terrible when I let the clutch go. Just a lot of wheel spin and no traction, so my start was very, very poor. Then of course after the Safety Car restart, it seemed like initially Charles was very quick and he was actually pulling away lap by lap but then at one point the tire deg came into play and from that point I could close the gap again.”