Max Verstappen fights his way back to podium at Belgian GP: 'Very happy'
Published on 26 August 2018 by Mike Motilall
Starting from seventh, Max Verstappen fought his way back to a great third place podium finish at the Belgian Grand Prix. In a chaotic start of the race on Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the Dutchman kept his nose clean. True to his style he overtook the Force India-drivers to secure his podium spot. Sebastian Vettel kept matters in check during the race in the Ardennes and with this victory closes the gap to leader in the standings Lewis Hamilton, who came in second. It’s the first time in the budding career of Verstappen that he finished on the podium at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I am very happy to be on the podium here”, says a smiling Verstappen. “The start was somewhat chaotic. Luckily I was on the inside and stayed out of trouble. After that, I was able to pass Grosjean on the straight and not much later Ocon. That move reminded me of our Formula-3-period. After I had cleared Pérez, I was able to run my own race.”
There wasn’t much more to gain says the Dutchman: “The car felt good and performed well, but unfortunately we are to slow on this track. That is something we cannot change. We achieved the maximum result possible today.”
Towards the end of the race, Verstappen asked his team if there was any chance of rain: “I had nobody behind and ahead of me, so that would have made it even more exciting”, says Max. “Unfortunately the rain never came, but it’s nice to be on the podium for all the Dutch fans.”
When the starting lights go out in Spa and the field has been let loose, entering the first corner, Nico Hulkenberg completely misses his braking point and collides with Fernando Alonso. The impact was so severe that it propelled the Spaniard entirely over Charles Leclerc. This means the end of the line for the three drivers. Because of the debris on track, the safety car is deployed. At the front of the field, Sebastian Vettel managed to overtake leader in the standings Lewis Hamilton.
Even Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen don’t make it through the first lap unscathed. Alonso’s McLaren hit and broke off the rear wing of the Ozzie during the crash at the start. To add insult to injury, exiting La Source, Ricciardo runs into the rear of Raikkonen’s Ferrari, resulting in a flat tyre for the Finn. He immediately reports back to the pits for a new set of some fresh rubbers.
At first all doesn’t look all too well for Ricciardo. The Ozzie is pushed backwards into his garage when he returns back to the pits. His mechanics start working on his car, trying to fix the damage he suffered. They get it done and the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver is sent back out on track again, albeit said that Ricciardo is now two laps down.
When the safety car heads back in, after four laps, Sebastian Vettel is leading the pack, on his tail Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Pérez, Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen. The latter has managed to move up to fifth.
Verstappen doesn’t take his eyes off of Ocon and on lap six, after a very nice overtake maneuver at the end of Kemmel Straight, he makes little work of the Frenchman. On lap ten, it’s the Mexican’s turn. At the same point where Max overtook his team mate, Sergio Pérez is also overtaken. In the end, Kimi Raikkonen still met his Waterloo. He brings back his Ferrari to his team as a result of the damages he suffered earlier on.
After a much talked about start of the race, all the drivers are slowly getting into their rhythm. Sebastian Vettel increases his lead on Lewis Hamilton, while Max is running his own race in P3. Force India and Haas are in good shape as they are fourth and seventh. Even Bottas has managed to come back after his penalty and is in ninth place on lap seventeen.
After the first pit stops, Lewis Hamilton has managed to close the gap to Sebastian Vettel by some two seconds, even though it starts increasing again lap after lap. Max Verstappen pits on lap twenty-seven and rejoins in third after a flawless pit stop. Valtteri Bottas is behind the Dutchman in fourth, but drops back after his stop to sixth on lap thirty, behind both Force India’s.
At that very moment, Red Bull Racing decides to save Daniel Ricciardo’s RB14 power unit and calls in the Ozzie. This brings the amount of dropouts to a total of four during this race.
The closing stages of the race is without any hick ups whatsoever. Sebastian Vettel maintains his lead on Lewis Hamilton and takes the victory home. Max Verstappen crosses the line in third. This means the youngster will be on the podium in Spa for the first time in his Formula 1-career. Valtteri Bottas eventually overtakes Sergio Pérez and finishes fourth, while both Force India and Haas have scored massively with Pérez (P5), Ocon (P6), Grosjean (P7) and Magnussen (P8). Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson divide the remaining points for their top ten finish.