Max Verstappen was happy to leave the Suzuka International Racing Course with a podium finish, the third consecutive season where the Dutchman has finished on the podium in Japan.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver finished just behind Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport’s Valtteri Bottas and attempted to put pressure on the Finn in the closing laps but to no avail, but the third-place result ensured a seventh visit to the podium in 2018.
Verstappen survived incidents with both Scuderia Ferrari drivers early on in the race, with contact initially with Kimi Räikkönen at the chicane before a clash with Sebastian Vettel at Spoon.
“After the penalty and incident with Seb I’m really happy to come away with another podium in Japan,” said Verstappen. “The car felt good and we were able to compete at the front for the entire race, which at this track makes it even better.
“Judging by a few mistakes he made it looked like Bottas was pushing hard on the last few laps. It’s hard to follow anyway so I just did my best hoping he would make another fault and I could be in a position to take advantage.”
Verstappen felt hard done by the stewards after being handed a five-second time penalty for his clash with Räikkönen, which came when he made a mistake at the Casio chicane and ran across the grass. He was deemed to re-join the track in an unsafe manner after hitting the side of the Ferrari driver and forcing the Finn to lose a position to team-mate Vettel.
“I felt a little hard done by with the penalty I got while defending against Kimi,” said the Dutchman. “I was trying my best to get back onto the track as quickly as possible instead of just cutting the corner, perhaps next time I will just cut the track.”
Verstappen drew similarities between his move on Vettel during the Chinese Grand Prix and the one the German made on him early on at the Spoon Curve, but the second Ferrari driver went unpunished for the manoeuvre. He says the mistake from Vettel proved that even the most experienced drivers can make mistakes under pressure.
“The incident with Sebastian was a very similar mistake to mine in China earlier this year, I think he could have passed easier if he had waited,” said Verstappen. “It shows that even the most experienced drivers can make errors when under pressure.
“I’m now very excited to get to Austin, we have good performance and it’s a great place to visit.”