Verstappen fifth at Chinese Grand Prix: 'I messed it up myself'

Published on 15 April 2018 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen came in fifth at the Chinese Grand Prix, after a very hectic stint towards the end of the race. During a safety car period, in the second half of the race, Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were the only ones who decided to make a pit stop out of the six fastest racers. After the safety car, Verstappen took on Lewis Hamilton for third, but got on the dirty side of the track and went wide. This dropped him back to fifth. He tried again to pass Hamilton and was successful, after which he set his sights on Sebastian Vettel. During an overtake maneuver from Verstappen, he and Vettel ran into each other. The Dutchman was handed out a ten-second time penalty as he was deemed responsible for the incident. Even though he took the flag in fourth, due to the penalty he subsequently finished fifth in the final standings. Ricciardo was able to overtake all his competitors on his fresher tyres and eventually took the victory home. Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas finished second and third.

After the race, Max was the first to step up to his mistake: “It just sucks, but I messed up this race single handedly. I went on the outside with Hamilton, but there were a lot of marbles, which made me slightly lose control of the car. That was a shame, but nevertheless, there were still a lot of possibilities. Then I saw Vettel struggling with his tyres. I tried braking very late in the corner, but my rear tyres locked up and I hit him. That is of course my mistake. It’s not what you want, but unfortunately it happened.”

Regarding Verstappen taking some more time to do an overtake, the Dutchman replies: “In hindsight it’s easy to say that, but in this situation I indeed could have waited. However, I cannot undo it. Maybe I wanted to progress too quickly. At this moment, it’s not running smoothly for me. That was the same last year as well, but now it’s time to turn things around. This doesn’t mean that I need to slow down though. It’s very unfortunate that these things happen. I will need to analyze everything and come back even stronger.”

Verstappen offered his apologies to Vettel immediately after the race: “I think that we all have been in this position, so as drivers we are able to talk about this.” The fact that team mate Ricciardo won the race, is evident of the pace of the RB14, this is also how Max sees this: “The race pace was good, but, as I said earlier, I messed it up myself. Daniel drove a super race. Next time, we’ll try to do that with two cars.”

For the first time this weekend the sun starts shining on the Shanghai International Circuit, bringing up the temperature to almost 40 degrees Celsius. Max starts the race from fifth on the ultra-soft tyres, as opposed to the four men ahead of him who are starting on the softs.

Immediately at the start, Max makes the most of his much faster tyres by overtaking Lewis Hamilton in Turn two and Raikkonen in the sixth corner. “See ya son!”, is what the Dutchman had to say on the radio about his well-executed moves. After the first lap, Vettel is the first to cross the line, followed by Bottas and Verstappen. The Dutchman is able to hold his own running in third. Even though that Bottas and Vettel are slightly pulling away ever lap, Raikkonen is off their pace at about some two seconds.

Max waits till lap eighteen to do his first pit stop. Team mate Daniel Ricciardo immediately heads for the pits as well, behind of him. Aston Martin Red Bull Racing double stacks both drivers flawlessly and both drivers rejoin in fifth and sixth.

The following lap, Hamilton also pits. This puts Verstappen now in P4. On his new set of tyres, Verstappen wastes no time and immediately clocks a 1:37.755, the fastest lap time so far. Bottas gives Vettel the undercut by pitting one lap earlier than the German.

Leader of the pack Raikkonen pushes on till his first stop. Bottas and Vettel, both having stopped already, had to overtake him when rejoining on track. After a tense battle, both drivers manage to overtake Raikkonen.

On lap 30, both Toro Rosso’s get entangled at the hairpin of Turn 14. Pierre Gasly hits Brendon Hartley sending all sorts of debris flying all across the track. This forced race control to deploy the safety car. Verstappen and Ricciardo seize the opportunity to do their second and final pit stop. On a new set of softs, Max rejoins in fourth, Ricciardo emerges back on track in P6.

The safety car heads back in on lap 36 and Max is ready to engage his attack on Hamilton ahead of him. Three laps later, Max has a shot at him in Turn 7 on the outside. However, the Dutchman slips on to the dirty side of the track and drops back to P5. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo does manage to get pass Hamilton one lap later and moves up to P3. Not much later, he also snatches Vettel’s second place away from him.

On lap 42, Verstappen eventually makes his second overtake maneuver stick on Hamilton and then sets his sights on Vettel who is running in third. On lap 44, at the hairpin at Turn 14 Max engages Vettel who runs wide. The two drivers run into each other causing Vettel to spin. Verstappen drops back to P5 once more, while Vettel drops even more down the ranks, all the way to P7. Race control decides to hand out Verstappen a ten-second time penalty for causing a collision.

Ricciardo is on fire and is closing in on the leader of the pack Bottas. After he audaciously outbrakes the Finn at Turn six, he then overtakes him. Verstappen is able to launch an attack again and passes Hamilton once again on lap 48. The youngster needs to increase his lead by no less than 10 seconds in order to stay ahead of him in the final standings. However, Max gets stuck between Bottas at the back of him and Raikkonen ahead of him, which causes him to not being able to succeed in his attempt. Verstappen comes in fifth at the Chinese Grand Prix. Team mate Ricciardo takes home the victory being flanked by the two Finns on the podium. Hamilton is fourth fastest while Nico Hulkenberg finishes quite decently in sixth for Renault. Fernando Alonso snatches seventh away from Vettel in the closing stages of the race.

Results Grand Prix China:

1Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer561:35:36.38025
2Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes56+8.894s18
3Kimi RäikkönenRAIFerrari56+9.637s15
4Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes56+16.985s12
5Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer56+20.436s10
6Nico HulkenbergHULRenault56+21.052s8
7Fernando AlonsoALOMcLaren Renault56+30.639s6
8Sebastian VettelVETFerrari56+35.286s4
9Carlos SainzSAIRenault56+35.763s2
10Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari56+39.594s1
11Esteban OconOCOForce India Mercedes56+44.050s0
12Sergio PerezPERForce India Mercedes56+44.725s0
13Stoffel VandoorneVANMcLaren Renault56+49.373s0
14Lance StrollSTRWilliams Mercedes56+55.490s0
15Sergey SirotkinSIRWilliams Mercedes56+58.241s0
16Marcus EricssonERISauber Ferrari56+62.604s0
17Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari56+65.296s0
18Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda56+66.330s0
19Charles LeclercLECSauber Ferrari56+82.575s0
20Brendon HartleyHARScuderia Toro Rosso Honda51DNF0