Max Verstappen admits he was frustrated in the first half of the Spanish Grand Prix after a number of errors left his hopes hanging by a thread before his comeback victory.
The defending champion was running second to Charles Leclerc when he went off at Turn 4, dropping to fourth behind George Russell and Sergio Perez. Once allowed through by his teammate, Verstappen struggled to clear Russell when his DRS wouldn’t work consistently, three-stopping his way to victory by getting the undercut on Russell, then Red Bull ordering Perez to move over once again.
“A bit of a race with two halves,” Verstappen said. “The first 30 laps were very frustrating after I went off in Turn 4, which really caught me by surprise as I didn’t feel I was braking later or throwing more speed into the corner, but it was very gusty out there today.
“One lap it felt more stable, then the next lap it felt like you had more oversteer in places. That probably caught me by surprise; not ideal, of course. Then I dropped back behind George and Checo. Checo was kind to let me by and try and attack George as I think we were planning to do two different strategies.
“Then my DRS stopped working all the time on the straights, so that was extremely painful. Sometimes it would open halfway or not at all. That made me stuck behind George for 20 laps or something. It was a tough one.”
Part of that spell included a thrilling fight with Russell where the Mercedes driver managed hold off Verstappen through the first three corners as they raced inches apart. Verstappen admits he enjoyed the battle.
“I was a bit frustrated at the time as I couldn’t get him because of [the] DRS issues, but the fight itself was really cool. That lap where I [went] on the inside, then George went round the outside, then I was on the outside of Turn 3 again was a really cool fight.
“I’ll look back at it and smile now but at the time, of course, I was a little bit frustrated, but it was a really good and tough battle I think.”
Despite Perez being ordered not to overtake Verstappen when faster and on fresher tires earlier in the race, and later not being offered the same courtesy, Verstappen says his strategy was compromised by the reliability issues he was suffering.
“We had a lot of options to look at because it was very difficult to judge how the [tire degradation] was going to be, so we were just trying to be very flexible. During the race you make that decision. Being stuck and having my DRS issue, we decided to be on a little bit of a more aggressive strategy, because if I didn’t have that DRS issue I could have cleared George earlier and I would have opened the gap again.
“Then you are in a different situation where maybe you do a different strategy, but we had to improvise a bit because of that. It worked out well because the tires were very difficult. Even in my last stint, the last few laps, I had the margin behind but the tires didn’t feel amazing anymore.”