Christian Horner praised Max Verstappen for his recovery drive from seventh on the grid in the Belgian Grand Prix to finish third, although by the time he had made his way to that position, the leading duo of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were out of reach.
However, there was disappointment on the other side of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing garage as Daniel Ricciardo’s afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps was compromised at the very first turn on the opening lap when he got caught up in a chain reaction following the Nico Hülkenberg-instigated crash.
Verstappen made a first lap pass on Romain Grosjean to run fifth (Kimi Räikkönen dropped out thanks to a puncture caused by Ricciardo’s car hitting his Scuderia Ferrari SF71H at the exit of turn one as the chain reaction continued), before he caught and passed both of the Racing Point Force India F1 Team drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez, to take a podium in what is effectively his home race.
“Max just drove a great Grand Prix today, recovering from seventh on the grid passing the Haas of Grosjean on lap 1 and then the two Force Indias,” said Red Bull team principal Horner. “Obviously he lost touch with the leaders in the course of making those passing moves, and certainly in the first half of the race we didn’t quite have the pace to keep in touch with the leaders.
“As soon as the pit stops had taken place he had good pace and was able to match the leading cars until the end of the race. So, in reality quite a lonely race for Max, but fantastic for him to achieve a podium in what is effectively his home grand prix in front of such an enormous crowd here in Spa.”
Horner was naturally disappointed to see Ricciardo’s race end early despite his mechanics working extremely quickly to get his car repaired following the first lap damage he received when Fernando Alonso’s out-of-control McLaren F1 Team car hit his rear wing after the Spaniard was hit from behind by Renault Sport Formula One Team’s Hülkenberg.
Ricciardo re-joined the race two laps down but it became clear that he wasn’t going to get anywhere near the points, so to preserve engine life, it was decided to retire him before the end of the race.
“For Daniel it was a great shame he got caught up in someone else’s accident at the first corner,” admitted Horner. “It looks like Hülkenberg misjudged his braking to cause the chain of events and the damage to the front and rear of Daniel’s car was significant.
“The mechanics did a wonderful job in getting the car turned around but unfortunately having lost two laps to the lead car, and with engine mileage at a premium, we had to make the decision to retire the car from what was only ever going to be a sixteenth place finish for Daniel today.”