Verstappen says ‘perfect call’ to switch tyres was key to P2 finish after recovery drive from last
Red Bull gambled on a power unit change for Max Verstappen for the Russian Grand Prix, meaning the Dutchman started the race P20. But after eventually recovering to second behind title rival Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen said he was “super happy”, as he praised his team’s perfectly-timed decision to switch to inters.
Verstappen opted to take on a fourth Honda power unit for this weekend in Sochi, dropping him to the back of the grid as Hamilton started the race P4. But Verstappen then made good progress early on, carving through the field to sit P7 with 10 laps to go.
But with rain falling in the final stages of the Grand Prix, Red Bull made the call to bring in Verstappen for intermediates, with the Dutchman rewarding his team’s strategy by claiming P2 behind Hamilton.
“I’m super happy of course to be second,” said Verstappen. “If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn’t believe you. But luckily the call to go from the slicks to the inters was the perfect one I think, the right lap… [So] super pleased for this.
“When the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box,” added Verstappen, “because the lap before, probably if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track. So to basically go from seventh to second for us was an amazing result.”
Despite Hamilton winning the race – with his 100th Grand Prix victory – Verstappen’s recovery meant he slipped just two points behind his rival in the drivers’ standings, with the Red Bull driver noting how important for his title hopes the Sochi result had been.
“It could of course have been a lot worse in terms of how many points I would lose,” said Verstappen.
“And especially also with the conditions, it’s already very hard to pass. But then also today because of track conditions and whatever, the tyres were graining a lot, so you also couldn’t really push or stay close to someone... All in all to come away with second here was, of course, very important.”
Verstappen now has 244.5 points to Hamilton’s 246.5, with seven rounds remaining in this thrilling 2021 season.