Max Verstappen felt it was important to make early gains in the Chinese Grand Prix, and his first lap jump from sixteenth on the grid to seventh gave him something to work with, with the Dutchman eventually claiming an excellent podium finish at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The Red Bull Racing driver drove calmly to work his way through the field, and when the race resumed following an early safety car for Antonio Giovinazzi crashing exiting the final corner, he made more overtakes to move up to second, and was threatening to close the gap to race leader Lewis Hamilton at that point.
“That was a very special race,” said Verstappen. “When I woke up this morning I never expected to be on the podium.
“It was a very good first lap, I passed nine cars I think which is very positive. The conditions really helped me get past the cars as quick as I could, that was important as I knew it would only dry up and get tougher to pass. I always enjoy driving in the wet so I made the most of the fun conditions early on. I think in the first eleven laps I got up to seventh place, which set me up for a strong finish.”
Unfortunately, Verstappen was unable to keep up the pace to Hamilton, and eventually found himself dropping back into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel, locking up at the hairpin at the end of the back straight to fall back to third, a position he would be able to hold on to despite a late race battle with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen also criticised the blue flag rules, as he found himself following in the wake of Romain Grosjean for lap after lap, but was told he was too far behind the Haas F1 Team driver for him to get blue flags. Despite this, he felt he was being hindered by Grosjean, and called for changes to be made in order to avoid a repeat.
“We were a bit unsure of how the balance of the car would be towards the end of the race as I didn’t run much yesterday in Qualifying and the temperature is a lot lower today,” said Verstappen.
“We had quite a bit of understeer but just about managed to hold on to third place. These balance issues combined with being within two seconds of another car in the closing stages of the race made it really hard to drive, there were blue flags out but I still couldn’t get past, this needs looking into.
“The battle with Daniel at the end was hard as my car was not fun to defend in. I’m glad we hung on and obviously it was a great race to watch and for the team. I think on pure pace in the dry we are still a bit slow for a podium but all things considered today we definitely MAXED it out.”