Max Verstappen has said that his second place finish at the French Grand Prix was more than Aston Martin Red Bull Racing expected at the start of the weekend.
Verstappen finished seven seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton and nearly nineteen seconds ahead of third placed man Kimi Räikkönen. The Dutchman profited from first corner contact between Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas, upgrading the fourth place he started in.
After a patchy start to the season, second at the Circuit Paul Ricard marked the 20-year-old’s third podium in four races and consolidated his sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship. Reflecting on the race, Verstappen said the the performance was “better than [Red Bull] expected” before the weekend.
“Finishing second here in Paul Ricard is better than we expected coming into the weekend,” he said, before admitting that he did not have to push the car too hard to keep the equally relaxed Hamilton within touching distance.
“As soon as we got to Turn 2 I was relieved not to have had contact, so from there it was just about managing my own race, which was fairly straightforward. I could see Lewis managing the pace but we were still not far off without pushing the car too much.”
Starting on the super-soft tyres, Red Bull opted for a one-stop race for the Dutchman pitting him on lap 26 – despite the threat of localised rain making its way towards the circuit – for the soft compound, mirroring Hamilton’s strategy. Verstappen praised the decision, saying that the durability of the soft tyres allowed him to create a comfortable buffer to third place.
“I think we got the strategy spot on,” he added.
“The soft tyres felt a little bit more robust and allowed me to find some good pace to make the final laps more comfortable.”
Additionally, Verstappen highlighted the importance of another clean race and expressed his desire to claim his first win of the season; his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo already has two victories to his name in 2018. He suggested that Red Bull will find even more performance in the upcoming races and found positives in scoring points at the team’s less favoured venues – yesterday, Verstappen bemoaned a lack of front end performance in the final sector, a consequence of a low drag setup.
“After two clean races and good result in a row it’s important to carry this momentum forward,” he stated. “We have had a third and now a second so with the right track I am looking forward to a victory.”
“I missed a good chance in Monaco but there are still some good opportunities coming up, but to score good points for the team at circuits that are not ideal for us is a big positive.
“It was nice to race here in France, to hear the national anthem and see so many people in the grandstands made it feel like a traditional European grand prix.”
In the formal post-race press conference, Verstappen hit out at the media for failing to subject Vettel to the criticism he came under at the start of the season, after the German was deemed to have been at fault for the collision with Bottas.
“I think next time you see Seb, maybe you should tell him to change his style, because honestly it’s not acceptable,” he joked.
“That’s what they said to me in the beginning of the season so I think they should do the same [to him]. That’s my advice to everyone in this room.”