Third place for Max in the Japanese Grand Prix: 'Very happy to be on the podium'

Published on 07 October 2018 by Raymond Snip

Max Verstappen achieved an excellent third place in the Grand Prix of Japan. The Dutchman had an exciting race. Max received a five second time penalty after pushing Kimi Raikkonen wide in the first lap. Then Verstappen was hit by the other Ferrari, of Sebastian Vettel, when the German made an attempt to overtake. Max, however, retained his third place and took his third podium in a row at Suzuka. Lewis Hamilton drove unchallenged to a victory, followed by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

At the end of the race Max caught up with Bottas, but he was not able to attack the Finn. The third place was the highest possible according to Max: "We did not really have a chance, we were not quick enough on the strait", says the Dutchman after the race. "In general, to nurse the car home with the damage I had to the floor we did a great job. The strategy initially was a bit tricky with the super soft tyres, but once we got the soft tyres on, it was actually working really well. You could see definitely at the end that we had the pace, even with the damage, so I am really happy with that."

Max then explains about the incidents with Raikkonen: "I braked a little bit too late into the chicane, so I did everything I could to get back onto the track. In think I did this in a safe way, because I did not go back crazy fast on the track. Kimi chose the wrong line in the chicane. He could have also waited for me to come back on the track. We touched a little bit but I think the five-second penalty is a really ridiculous. I should have gone straight at full speed. It didn’t change anything in the end but I did not agree with that.”

About the touch with Vettel the Dutchman says: “Before the pit stop there was the incident with Vettel. It was a bit like in China and you see that even the most experienced drivers make errors. In that corner you can’t overtake. I even gave him space, but he understeered into my car and he damaged the side of my floor. That was a shame, however, I am very happy to be on the podium."

The 53 laps race starts under a bright sunny sky and an outside temperature of almost 30 degrees. Max gets underway well from his third starting position and retains his position. In the first lap, the Dutchman locks up in the chicane. When he returns on to the track, Max pushes Kimi Raikkonen, who is behind him, wide and he manages to keep his third place. Hamilton, who started from pole, is in the lead, followed by teammate Bottas.

At the start-finish Charles Leclerc runs into the rear of the fierce defending Kevin Magnussen. The incident results in a puncture for the Dane. While driving back to the pits, the loose rubber breaks of parts of the floor of the Haas, which leaves a lot of debris on the track. A safety-car situation is the result.

During the safety-car period it is announced that Max receives a five second time penalty for the incident with Raikkonen. In lap 8 the safety car comes back out again. At Spoon, Sebastian Vettel tries to pass Max on the inside. The German hits Verstappen and spins. Vettel falls back to P19, while Max goes wide he is able to maintain his third place.

After 14 laps Daniel Ricciardo, who started from P15 after problems in qualifying, is already in fifth place after some successful overtaking. In lap 22 Verstappen comes into the pits. The Dutchman switches from his supersofts to a set of soft tyres. He also sits out his five second penalty and comes out in front of Raikkonen. With that, Max is now fifth, which quickly becomes fourth when he passes Romain Grosjean. When Ricciardo pits in lap 24, Verstappen is back in third place.

During the next few laps Vettel is ensued in a midfield battle, where after some fights he comes out in sixth place. Verstappen is the only one out of the top five who does not drive on the medium tyres, so he has to nurture his tyres. The Dutch manages to do so and even catches up with Bottas who is ahead of him.

In lap 40, Leclerc goes wide at Degner 1, after which the Monegask has to park his car next to the track with technical problems. There will be a short-term virtual safety car situation to push the Sauber behind the barrier.

After the track is released again, Max resumes his hunt for Bottas. Despite Verstappen coming close a few times, he does not manage to attack and he has to settle for third place. It is the third podium in a row for Verstappen in Japan, after having finished in second place in the previous two years. Hamilton drives unchallenged to the victory and is well on his way to his fifth title as Vettel finishes only sixth. Bottas come in second place and completes the party for Mercedes. Ricciardo finishes behind Verstappen in fourth place, while Raikkonen finishes fifth. Sergio Perez is 'best of the rest' in P7, while Romain Grosjean, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz complete the top ten.

Results Grand Prix Japan:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes531:27:17.06225
2Valteri BottasBOTMercedes53+12.919s18
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer53+14.295s15
4Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer53+19.495s12
5Kimi RäikkönenRAIFerrari53+50.998s10
6Sebastian VettelVETFerrari53+69.873s8
7Sergio PerezPERForce India Mercedes53+79.379s6
8Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari53+87.198s4
9Esteban OconOCOForce India Mercedes53+88.055s2
10Carlos SainzSAIRenault52+1 lap1
11Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda52+1 lap0
12Marcus EricssonERISauber Ferrari52+1 lap0
13Brendon HartleyHARScuderia Toro Rosso Honda52+1 lap0
14Fernando AlonsoALOMcLaren Renault52+1 lap0
15Stoffel VandoorneVANMcLaren Renault52+1 lap0
16Sergey SirotkinSIRWilliams Mercedes52+1 lap0
17Lance StrollSTRWilliams Mercedes52+1 lap0
0Charles LeclercLECSauber Ferrari38DNF0
0Nico HulkenbergHULRenault37DNF0
0Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari8DNF0