Max Verstappen finished third in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, but the Dutchman admitted it was quite a dull afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps due to the limitations of the tyres.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver had hoped to take the fight to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team but was unable to do so as he endured a relatively lonely race to the bottom step of the podium.
Much like the Mercedes drivers, Verstappen was forced into an early pit stop, which made for a lot of tyre conservation in the second half of the race. He was also forced to work around some vibrations from the tyres in the closing laps, which saw his pace drop away further.
“I love this track, but the race was not really the most exciting from my side,” said Verstappen. “It wasn’t really much of a fight and I just tried to do my own race and maximise the result.
“On the medium tyre I didn’t have a lot of grip and then on the hard I was initially trying to put pressure on Valtteri [Bottas] but he was told to speed up and was able to build a good gap, so after that it was a bit lonely.
“There was not much action up front unfortunately and the tyre wear was quite high so we couldn’t really push. I had some vibrations towards the end of the race so I really had to manage my tyres, I took no risks and brought it home.
“Overall, we had a good weekend and the car balance was nice so we can be pleased with that. We are not here to finish third and we want more but it is always good to be on the podium.”
“It was a frustrating race and it was pretty tricky to do anything” – Alexander Albon
Team-mate Alexander Albon was equally frustrated after finishing down in sixth, with the Thai driver losing fifth to Renault DP World F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon on the final lap.
Albon had initially jumped ahead of the Frenchman in the pit lane during the safety car period, but the decision to put the Red Bull driver onto the medium compound rather than the hard ultimately was the wrong choice, with the pace in the closing laps dropping off dramatically.
He fell away from Daniel Ricciardo in the leading Renault and into the clutches of Ocon, who was able to finally secure a move ahead on the run down the Kemmel Straight on the final lap. Albon finished sixth, just ahead of McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris.
“It was a frustrating race and it was pretty tricky to do anything,” said Albon. “We knew before the race that the Renaults would be hard to overtake with their low downforce and straight-line speed and that proved to be the case.
“I felt pretty good at the start on the soft tyre and then we managed to jump Ocon in the pits when we changed to mediums, thanks to a good stop from the boys in the garage. I don’t think we expected as much degradation as we got on that compound and maybe they weren’t the right choice in the end but I pushed as hard as I could to try and do the overtakes and the tyres just dropped off.
“We’ll have a look at it to see what we can learn before our focus shifts towards Monza in a few days but it’s nice to move up to fourth in the championship which is a sign we’re making progress.”