Red Bull Racing ended the United States Grand Prix weekend on a high, courtesy of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon bringing their cars home in third and fifth.
Verstappen began the race in third position before making the jump on Sebastian Vettel at the start and chased after Valtteri Bottas in the opening stages. Pitting a lap earlier for his first stop than the Finn very nearly saw the Dutchman complete the undercut but had to slot in behind the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport car.
With Lewis Hamilton going the entire race on a one-stop, unlike Verstappen and Bottas each on two, the twenty-two year old had to overtake both of the Silver Arrows on track.
Unfortunately, due to yellow flags at the end of the back-straight due to Kevin Magnussen‘s stricken Haas F1 Team car in the final couple of laps, Verstappen had to settle for third behind Hamilton at the finish to take his and Red Bull’s second podium in the last seven rounds.
He said he was “very happy” with where he had finished and being able to keep up with the top two throughout the whole event.
“For us, it’s been a positive weekend and I’m very happy to finish third on a track like this,” Verstappen said jubilantly.
“On the last few laps, the yellow flags hurt me and I couldn’t pass after the straight, otherwise I think we could have finished second. After the race I realised I was missing quite a big piece of my floor which is a shame as I think we could have been even more competitive otherwise.
“I had a good start and then I tried to follow Valtteri but it seemed like they had a bit more pace than us so to finish roughly five seconds behind him is a good achievement, especially considering our car damage. I think the two stop was the right way to go and I don’t think we could have done anything differently as it was the fastest strategy for us.
“I think we’ve taken a good step forward and we’re back in the fight. It’s still not going to be easy but we won’t give up. It is of course very impressive for Lewis to win his sixth title and you have to be very consistent to achieve that so he deserves it.”
Verstappen’s Austin result sees him move ahead of Sebastian Vettel into fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and is fourteen points behind third place Charles Leclerc with two races remaining.
Alexander Albon’s first race in the United States was more eventful. A first lap that saw the Thai driver collide with Carlos Sainz Jr. at Turn One, forcing Albon to stop to change tyres and dropping to last place.
Pitting three times throughout the Grand Prix, the rookie completed a comeback drive to fifth, which had earned him the Driver of the Day award. This had also moved him up to sixth in the Drivers’ Championship in front of Sainz by four points and seven ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Albon felt he did the “best job” he could after his opening lap disaster.
“I’ve enjoyed my first weekend in America and I think we did the best job we could with P5,” Albon added.
“The start was strong but I’m a bit frustrated with Turn 1. I need to watch it back but it felt like I got squeezed and obviously had nowhere to go as three into one is a bit difficult! I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, it was just racing, but I had to run over the kerb which damaged my floor and front wing.
“From there we had to pit and I lost a lot of time so our race was pretty compromised, otherwise I think maybe we could have fought Leclerc for P4. In the end it was a strange race but it was fun and I enjoyed some good overtakes to get back to the front. Considering we had no safety cars and had floor damage, I think we did well to make our way back through the field.”
Red Bull have ensured that they will finish 2019 third in the Constructors’ Championship for the third season running.
Team Principal Christian Horner was pleased to see both Verstappen and Albon pull off excellent drives, considering their pace in qualifying to go with it.
“It was a really strong drive by Max today,” Horner shared. “He got a good start and then he picked up some front wing damage on the first lap so we elected to go for a two stop strategy versus Lewis’ one stop.
“Max was able to keep Bottas in sight throughout the three stints and closed to within a second of Hamilton towards the end of the race. An unlucky yellow flag over the last couple of laps prevented the chance of a Max overtake but nonetheless P3 here in Austin has been the end to a very strong weekend.
“For Alex, he was unlucky at the start when he got involved in a pincer type movement up at Turn 1. This meant his front wing needed changing on the first lap and thereafter his recovery was fantastic.
“He did some great overtaking and showed strong pace to get back into P5 which makes him Driver of the Day and moves him up to P6 in the championship. He is showing solid progress and congratulations also go to Lewis Hamilton on his historic sixth World Championship which is truly quite a feat and well deserved.”