Max Verstappen felt damage to his RB14 caused his early spin and subsequent struggle to recover positions as the Dutchman claimed sixth place in the season opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver had already lost out to Kevin Magnussen at the start, with the Dane sweeping around the outside of turn one as Verstappen braked to avoid contact with one of the Scuderia Ferrari’s ahead of him, but early damage made it difficult to follow, while it also made the handling of the car through the corners much more difficult.
This ultimately led to Verstappen spinning on the exit of turn one and dropping down to seventh, and although he managed to get ahead of Nico Hülkenberg and gained positions when both Magnussen and Romain Grosjean retired in quick succession, he found himself sixth at the chequered flag behind Fernando Alonso after losing out to the Spaniard due to the timing of the Virtual Safety Car.
“The start was ok but I got a bit unfortunate at turn one and ended up in the wrong position so lost out on fourth,” said Verstappen. “I tried to follow as best I could but experienced a few issues with the feeling of the car.
“I think at about lap four or five I sustained a bit of damage on the car, I’m not sure what from as I didn’t have any contact or hit any curbs hard. When I jumped out of the car I could see some damage and I also think something broke off so we need to investigate what that was.
“The issue made it hard to hold on mid corner which eventually led to me spinning and then struggling for the rest of the race. Luckily I didn’t lose too many positions due to the spin and still managed to have a battle to the end.”
Verstappen attributed some of his troubles in overtaking down to the nature of the Albert Park circuit, which despite three Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones in place, was still extremely difficult to manage, particularly with low grip.
“It is still really hard to get past the cars ahead as soon as you are within a second,” said the Dutchman. “This track is hard to overtake also but when you have limited grip it is extra hard.”
Verstappen was left disappointed that he was not able to turn the strong pace Red Bull has shown during the weekend into a better result, but looking forward he hopes clean Qualifying sessions on Saturdays – he made a mistake on his best lap in Australia that saw him start fourth rather than second – lead to competitive races.
“The car has been running and feeling really good all weekend so it’s a shame to have the damage and then the bad feeling during the race,” admitted Verstappen. “We are happy to score some points considering the circumstances, as soon as we had clean air the pace was good.
“Looking ahead I think if we can have a good Qualifying and clean start then everything else should sort itself out in the race and we can be competitive.”