Max Verstappen says seeing both Aston Martin Red Bull Racing drivers finish on the podium in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix was good for the Milton Keynes-based outfit, and he admitted his surprise that it was back in 2017 when it last happened in Formula 1.
The Dutchman finished second at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday whilst team-mate Alexander Albon joined him on the podium in third, with the race seeing the first double podium for Red Bull since the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix.
Heading into this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix on the outer circuit of the Bahraini track, Verstappen says it is important to finish the year off with the best results possible, particularly if he wants to deny Valtteri Bottas second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
“Yeah, it’s been a while since we had a double podium and it was great for everyone in the Team,” said Verstappen. “I was pretty surprised how long it’s been and also that it didn’t happen in 2018 as we had a decent package.
“That’s what you want as a Team and of course at the moment we’re a bit slower than Mercedes but when they make a mistake we need to be there to capitalise and that’s what we did, we both maximised everything we could.
“Also on my side it was nice to be back on the podium after the last two races didn’t go as planned and now it’s just about trying to finish the season with the best results we can.”
Verstappen says getting a clear lap in Qualifying will be important this weekend, but with twenty drivers likely to be driving ‘within 150 metres’ of each other, it may be difficult to get through even Q1.
“With such a short track it will be difficult to get a clear lap in qualifying, especially with it being about a 54 second lap,” said the Dutchman. “I think everyone on track is going to be within 150 metres!
“I think blue flags and backmarkers will be interesting but lap times should be a bit closer so I don’t expect the gaps to be as big.”
“It’s a great idea to change the layout of the circuit” – Alexander Albon
Team-mate Albon secured only his second podium of the season last weekend, helped by the late retirement of Sergio Pérez, and the Thai driver brought himself firmly back into the battle for fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with just two races remaining.
Albon still sits a lowly ninth in the standings but the fifteen points he earned in the Bahrain Grand Prix has moved him to within seventeen of fourth placed Daniel Ricciardo, with a maximum of fifty-two points remaining.
Albon says he is expecting the Sakhir layout to host a great race this weekend, particularly looking back at the other late additions to the calendar such as the events at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello and Intercity Istanbul Park.
“It was definitely nice to get back on the podium and it was also the Team’s first double podium for some time so that’s positive,” said Albon. “More importantly though it was a good amount of points and now we just need to continue like this.
“We are racing at the same circuit in Bahrain but on a revised layout and it’s definitely very different. I think if we are doing double headers at the same track, like we are here, then it’s a great idea to change the layout of the circuit as it spices things up.
“This layout is going to be very unique and I believe it will make for some good racing, plus with such a short lap, it will be the most laps we’ve done in a Grand Prix. Qualifying is going to be very difficult in terms of getting a clear lap and that will add another dimension and make it interesting.
“But looking back at tracks like Turkey and Mugello, these ‘different’ kind of tracks tend to make for great races so hopefully that’s the case this weekend.”
With such a short lap, it could be a chaotic weekend ahead for everyone, but Albon says staying on your toes and being adaptive to the situation will be key.
As for Red Bull’s chances, Albon feels this layout will be less suited to the RB16 than the traditional layout at the Bahrain International Circuit due to the more power sensitive nature of the outer track.
“There’s not much you can really do besides being on your toes and adapting to the situation,” said the Thai driver. “Qualifying could be messy but there should be enough time to get a reasonably good lap in.
“Firstly you’ve got to get a clear lap in but also not get in someone else’s way. It will be tricky out there and just looking at Sakhir on paper, working with your engineer on car set-up and communication will be key at a new and unique circuit layout like this.
“As the track is so short I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a DRS train as there’s little separating the cars on track and we cannot social distance out there!
“I think it could be more of a challenge for us this weekend because the layout is more power sensitive. I expect with such a short lap the times will be very close so we’ll need to ensure we have the car set-up really hooked up. We know from last weekend we have things to improve on and so we will build on that through Friday, Saturday and keep tuning the car for the race on Sunday.
“It’s been a very hectic season for everyone and we’re finishing on a triple header which is hard for the mechanics, but my focus is to the year as strong as possible. My drive and motivation to push forward and get the best results I can is as a strong as ever.”