Max Verstappen heads into the French Grand Prix this weekend with one eye on a return to the podium, having finished inside the top three on his first ever visit to the Circuit Paul Ricard twelve months ago.
Verstappen avoided the first corner carnage that compromised the races of both Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to run second early on, a position the Red Bull Racing driver would retain until the chequered flag, the Dutchman ending just over seven seconds away from race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The twenty-one-year-old said the team got the strategy spot on in 2018, and heading into the 2019 race, he is ready for the challenge to repeat or even better the result this season.
“France is still a very new Grand Prix for F1 which makes it naturally more of a challenge for all teams and I had not raced there before 2018,” said Verstappen. “Last year was good for us, we got the strategy spot on and finished second on the podium which was a good Team result.
“It’s not an easy track with very wide open entries to corners which is different to most other tracks we race on.”
The 2018 race was the first French Grand Prix since 2008, and Verstappen feels the country should be on the Formula 1 calendar. He also praises the Paul Ricard track for its safety and fan appeal, with many fans expected to attend this weekend, with many set to support his French team-mate Pierre Gasly.
“I think in general it’s good to have a Grand Prix in France,” added Verstappen. “It’s a historic track which is well known for its safety, it also attracts lots of fans who love the sport which is great to see, especially for Pierre.
“It’s also not far from home, which makes life a bit easier.”
Verstappen felt he got as good as a result as he could during the recent Canadian Grand Prix, moving from ninth on the grid to finish fifth, but he hopes to be able to challenge for a third podium finish of 2019 this weekend in France.
“We maximised things in Canada and we are working hard to improve all aspects,” said the Dutchman. “I feel comfortable in the car so I hope we will be able to challenge the frontrunners more closely in France.”