Max Verstappen believes his victory in the United States Grand Prix was the sort of race Dietrich Mateschitz would have loved after Red Bull secured the constructors’ championship.
Red Bull co-founder Mateschitz died on Saturday, with one of the Formula 1 teams he owned going on to win its first constructors’ title since 2013 a day later when Verstappen fought past Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton after a slow pit stop to take victory.
The back-to-back drivers’ champion said it was a challenge to both pass and then pull away from the Ferrari and Mercedes, but that having to work hard for the title made the result all the more special.
“Obviously for us it’s been a tough weekend and we really wanted to win,” Verstappen said. “Everything was looking great, but with that final stop, that 11-second pitstop that was not the best, after the field was quite close because of the Safety Cars. So we had to recover quite a bit.
“Initially I had a good battle with Charles and once I got ahead I felt like I damaged my tires a little bit too much in the beginning of that new tire set, so the first few laps I was not really catching like I wanted to to Lewis. But then I think once I recovered with the tires then I could close in a bit, step by step.
“I went for the move into [Turn] 12. And it was a tough few laps to get him out of the DRS. In general, I think throughout the race, you could see it also when I passed Charles, he could stay in the DRS for a few laps around here. And it seemed like it was quite powerful. So it was not made easy for us, but at the end, of course, extremely happy to win on this difficult weekend for us.
“I think this was actually a race he would have loved to see. So of course I’m sad but I’m also incredibly proud of the whole team and also the way they’ve operated all weekend – apart from the pit stop but that was a gun failure and these things unfortunately can happen. But we kept it together and we won the Constructors’.
“I’m very proud of everyone, also the people who don’t even come to the track, back at the factory. The effort they have put into this car as well this year has been enormous. And I’m very proud of everyone to secure this.”
Verstappen also had praise for the Circuit of the Americas track after his win, saying his anger from the slow pit stop soon disappeared as he knew he could race hard on the layout to try and recover.
“A lot of swear words (were triggered by the pit stop issue) – I was very upset. But immediately when you turn the pit limiter off you have to keep your head down and go for it. But it wasn’t made easy.
“Luckily this track is amazing to race at as well. So it’s not like some other tracks where then your race is over. This is a proper racetrack where you can pass, and also you see the first time I tried on Charles. This Turn 1 is so wide but then if he opens up, there are different lines to come back at you.
“And it’s quite tough because the corner is so wide that when you go for the move, sometimes you can’t even really picture where the other car is going to be again. But that makes great racing because it gives you so many different opportunities, pass on the inside or open it up, and then maybe have a cut back. It’s a good track.”