Max Verstappen says he settled for second place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix due to driveshaft concerns in the latter stages of the race.
A driveshaft failure saw Verstappen unable to complete a timed lap in Q2 on Saturday and start the race in Jeddah from 15th on the grid. The defending champion made solid progress to run in the top four by the 16th lap as pit stops started to play out, and then took advantage of a safety car period to make his own stop and hold position, allowing him to rise to second by halfway but then fail to close in on teammate Sergio Perez.
“I think realistically, with or without the safety car, I think P2 was the highest possible,” Verstappen said. “The beginning — the first few laps it was really hard to follow cars because of the street circuit, fast corners, the walls all very close, you get kind-of a tail wind effect. And the car’s a bit all over the place.
“So, after a few laps, it all started to settle in a bit better, and I could pick them off one by one. Then the pace was good. The safety car, of course, helped me a bit to get back in the race. But even with that and the restart you just lose too much time to Checo, for example. So, once I got into P2, it was quite a decent gap, on a track where there’s not a lot of (tire degradation).
“I tried to close the gap a bit. But then, at one point, I picked up these vibrations again on the driveshaft, on the rear. The team couldn’t see anything, but I’m fairly sure there was something odd going on with the balance since the vibration started to kick in.
“So I did the calculations, and I wouldn’t have been able to close that gap to the end with only 10 laps left. So, at some point it’s more important to just settle for second: not having an issue with the car.”
Verstappen retained his early championship lead over Perez by securing the fastest lap on the final lap of the race, despite those reliability concerns, and the two drivers had differing views on being able to push so hard at that stage.
“With a few laps ago, I asked what the fastest lap was. We were first of all free to race and of course we had a target lap time to the end. It’s a point on the line. It was the same also in Bahrain — it got asked. Especially when it’s just between the two cars, I think it’s quite normal that you (ask) for what the fastest lap is.”
Perez says his situation wasn’t the same as Verstappen’s as he was told not to go faster to try and improve his time, having already held the fastest lap until the very end of the race.
“Yeah, I asked two laps from the end, where they told me to keep a certain pace,” Perez said. “They told me I had the fastest lap and to keep the pace, a certain pace. So I thought the communication was the same to Max or something. We need to review because I got certainly the different information and I just couldn’t push it there.”