VIDEO: Verstappen’s amazing opening lap in China
From 16th to seventh in less than two minutes? All in a day’s work for F1’s boy wonder…
Having fallen at the Q1 hurdle in qualifying after his Red Bull was struck by software gremlins, Max Verstappen was no doubt delighted to see wet conditions arrive as expected on race day. But even with his proven treaded-tyre credentials, not even he expected to make up quite so many places on a damp (if not fully wet) opening lap in Shanghai.
Looking at the video above, you can see that the young Dutchman cannily selected second gear for the start - a bold, wheelspin-limiting decision that enabled him to rocket away from his P16 grid slot.
Once underway, Verstappen picked off Carlos Sainz’s struggling slick-shod Toro Rosso almost immediately, and followed that up with passes on Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne to be P13 through the opening two turns.
Sergio Perez’s Force India was then dispatched around the outside through Turn 4 before the 19-year-old raced past Lance Stroll’s Williams under braking for Turn 6 to take tenth.
Showing an incredible confidence that belied the tricky conditions, Verstappen then used a wider line through Turn 8 to snatch P9 from no less a driver than Fernando Alonso, before sending one up the inside of the similarly experienced Felipe Massa into Turn 11 to take eighth.
The astonishing nine-place opening lap climb was then completed when Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault peeled into the pits, gifting Verstappen another place.
“In the wet it’s easier to overtake,” F1's youngest ever winner said nonchalantly afterwards. “I think it was a perfect race for me because then after [conditions improve] you go on the slick tyres, and you have passed most of the field already and you are basically back in the position where you should be.”
And if not for the damp conditions at the start, where might he have finished?
“Well, not third, for sure. Maybe sixth? [They were] good conditions for me…”
For more onboard videos from Shanghai, including several unseen angles, stay tuned to Formula1.com on Tuesday.