Verstappen rues loss of ‘easy podium’ in Austria season opener
Max Verstappen’s hopes of taking a third successive Austrian Grand Prix victory lasted just 11 of the 71 laps of the 2020 season opener, as a gremlin on his Red Bull RB16 forced him into retirement. But while Verstappen wasn’t convinced that he had truly had the pace to challenge the Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas for the win, he felt sure that a valuable podium had been his for the taking in Austria.
Verstappen was accelerating out of Turn 1 on Lap 11 when his car appeared to switch itself off, before coming back on with reduced power.
“I suddenly just lost power, drive, got into anti-stall and stuff,” said Verstappen immediately after the race. “I don’t know what the problem is yet… We’ll find out but of course it’s not how you want to start.”
Verstappen had played a tactical ace on Saturday by going through to Q3 on the medium tyre, the only driver to do so in the top 10, handing him a potential strategic advantage over the otherwise dominant Mercedes.
But having been around three seconds behind eventual winner Bottas when his race ended – after starting second on the grid, with Red Bull having successfully protested a stewards’ decision against Lewis Hamilton in qualifying – did Verstappen feel that he’d been denied a shot at victory in round one?
“No,” he replied. “Quite quickly you could see that Valtteri was quite quick. I was just trying to do my own pace, but it would have been an easy podium. But what can you do about it?”
Red Bull come away from their home race with zero points from the opening Grand Prix of 2020, after Alex Albon was first spun out of contention by Hamilton, before then suffering his own retirement.
“It looks something on the power unit side with Alex,” was Team Principal Christian Horner’s assessment of Albon’s failure. “We don’t know if that’s a result of the knock that he had [with Hamilton] or the trip through the gravel. We turned the engine off as a precaution.
“This sport can be pretty brutal sometimes,” he added, “and it feels like today’s been one of those days.”