Verstappen says he had no warning of tyre issue before sudden spin, as Horner suggests debris possibly to blame
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drove a storming Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, and was looking set to finish P2 before a tyre issue cruelly spun him into retirement 12 laps from the end. But the Dutchman was trying to look on the bright side after missing out on what would have been his 10th podium of the year.
A brilliant start from Verstappen had seen him jump Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to take P2 behind race leader Valtteri Bottas. And although both he and Bottas would ultimately be passed in the pits by Hamilton – who benefitted from a perfectly-timed Virtual Safety Car that allowed him to claim the net lead of the race – Verstappen had then seized on a Bottas mistake at Rivazza on Lap 42 of 63, ultimately passing the Finn for second into Tamburello on the following lap.
He then looked to have checked out for P2 when his right-rear tyre appeared to let go on the run to Villeneuve - with Red Bull boss Christian Horner suggesting debris might have been to blame - spinning Verstappen out of the race with 12 laps to go.
“It could have been a very nice P2,” said a philosophical Verstappen after the Grand Prix. “The start was good, I got Lewis and was trying to stay with Valtteri. We both pitted, and I tried to do the undercut. [Bottas], I think, had damage on the floor, so we were losing a lot of lap time [behind him] and I couldn’t get close – this track is so hard to pass on!
“Then of course Lewis jumped us, but once I got past Valtteri, the pace was good, the car was feeling good and suddenly on the straight, I lost the car because there was a tyre blow-out. I don’t exactly know what happened, but when I quickly looked at the car, there was nothing broken on the car, so it’s a big shame.”
Verstappen, though, wanted to take the positives away from Imola, the Red Bull driver having relished the ability to fight with the Mercedes on race day, with his RB16 – which was majorly updated two races ago at the Nurburgring – appearing to have taken a step closer to the Silver Arrows.
“It was a very nice race from our side,” he said. “It was a lot more fun as well. I was really pushing and trying to stay with [the Mercedes] and it was a lot of fun out there. So it was a shame, of course, to not be on that podium – but not only not be on that podium but also be second. So a big shame… It would have been a great race, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen’s retirement was later compounded when team mate Alex Albon, who'd looked set to score some decent points, was passed by the Racing Point of Sergio Perez when the race restarted after the Safety Car brought out for Verstappen’s incident – with Albon then spinning his car under his own steam out of Villeneuve, and ending up coming home 15th and last, making the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix a point-less race for Red Bull.