Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen had a hugely successful Japanese Grand Prix weekend, qualifying fifth but being raised up to third due to penalties for both Ferrari drivers, and finishing the race in second place, only behind championship leader, Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG Petronas.
“We knew the start was going to be very decisive and we had a really good one today which allowed me to settle into my own rhythm,” commented the Dutch driver, who had a bout of poor starts during the season that ultimately compromised his finishing position in the race. “I’m pleased the starts are coming together, that’s two in a row now.”
Verstappen has achieved a reputation for having strong tyre management, something that helped him to his maiden victory in Spain earlier this year. This was evident in Suzuka, with the driver mentioning that, “I was then able to sit behind Nico (Rosberg) and control my tyres. The team gave me a really strong strategy, along with a car that felt very balanced so I was able to enjoy a successful race.
“I was really happy to be able to get in-between the two Mercedes cars, it is a great result yet again for the team.”
However, he admitted that it would have been difficult to catch Nico Rosberg, who he believed to be controlling the race well. “In the race we had quick pace but I think Nico was still only cruising. When I sped up Nico could match it and if I slowed he did also, he was in control.”
The young driver once more caused controversy in the race, with some questionable defending manoeuvres that he has become somewhat famous for this season.
“Lewis (Hamilton) was obviously a bit quicker in the final stages and I knew he was going to catch me, the gap time on the pit board was dropping every lap. Into the last chicane I saw him coming in my mirrors so I defended my position, this allowed me to hang on for the second place.”
Mercedes obviously saw the move as illegal, as post-race they launched an appeal against Verstappen, which was then quickly removed and criticized by Lewis Hamilton on social media.
“I had some concerns about the blue flags, I think we need to talk about it. I have been in the same situation last year and earlier this year, I understand from their (back-markers) perspective you want to race but the guys lapping you are racing for a podium so you have to have a different approach.”