Max Verstappen says it was hectic to see the battle ahead of him in F1 Russian GP, as he adds how his tyres were done by the time rain came.
It was quite the fight back from Red Bull’s Verstappen from back of the pack inside the Top 10 in F1 Russian GP. But it didn’t come easy considering the close midfield. While he managed to pass Valtteri Bottas at ease, it wasn’t the same with Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari driver was tussling with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel for a lap, with Verstappen tucked behind. At one moment, the Dutchman tried to have a look at him on the inside, but was almost hit by Leclerc at the Turn 7 right-hander.
Verstappen noted it was a hectic moment certainly, but it worked out fine as Leclerc eventually didn’t touch him. “Charles was fighting Seb in front and they were basically side-by-side from Turn 2 to Turn 7,” he said. “I was still a bit behind but then of course because they were fighting… I had a good run out of Five and Charles went for the move but went a bit deep, so then of course Seb overtook him again.
“But then I think he didn’t realise I was that close, and he just threw the car to the right and I had to avoid him and he almost took my front wing off. At the end of the day, it all worked out but it was quite a few hectic corners, to also see them battling,” summed up Verstappen, who had his work cut out to pass Leclerc eventually.
Even after he got through him, the Monegasque stayed on his back for a while until Verstappen pitted. It was an early stop from the hard tyres to medium since his tyres were done by then. In hindsight, he reckoned, the team could have tried the other strategy, as even Fernando Alonso managed to pass him before the rain came.
“I had to pit as my tyres were done, just fighting and being in traffic,” said Verstappen. “The left front was just done so in hindsight maybe it would have been better to start on the mediums, I don’t know, but I also didn’t expect the hard tyre to give up so quickly. In a way I think it was just very difficult on tyres, especially when you had to come from the back and then you have to clear slower cars.
“You open up your tyre and then basically once that is the case, you are just stuck, you can’t do anything but the pit lane here is so slow and you lose so much time that you can’t really put a two-stop into play so I was just very limited with my tyre options so I boxed and I knew it was going to be very hard to the end but also don’t forget that I have Charles, for example, before I boxed, very close behind and he was properly stuck in some traffic because I think at one point he was 14th.
“So I don’t think we did anything wrong with the strategy, we just… the tyres were very limiting in terms of what you could achieve. So even if the rain didn’t come and I would have finished seventh or sixth, I would have been like, well, that’s what it is because with the tyres we had, the graining, there was not much more I could have done, coming from the back so all in all, then with the rain, we made the right calls but… It was fine.
“That’s what it is. And Fernando, yeah, he overtook me. He had better tyres, my left front was dead,” summed up Verstappen, who noted that it was a good call in the end to pit when he did for the intermediate tyres, which eventually helped them to end up second and not allow Lewis Hamilton to generate a huge gap.
“Naturally when you’re driving on slicks and it starts raining, it’s more of a driver-feel, so they kept on asking me,” said Verstappen. “Communication is very important when it’s like that – so they kept on asking me, even though sometimes I couldn’t press the radio button because you’re trying to keep the car on the track.
“I was saying, the lap before, I think we still have to continue, because I was only losing like eight, nine seconds and then yeah, that lap, when we boxed, at one point it was so hard to keep the car on the track. I was like ‘we need to box’ but you’re not entirely sure. Then the team said ‘OK, we’ll box’, they called me in and it was the right call,” summed up Verstappen.
Here’s the battle Max Verstappen talked about: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-russian-grand-prix-verstappen-and-leclerc-almost-touch-in-thrilling-three-way-battle-with-vettel.1711967578700500529.html
Here’s an exclusive video from F1 of Max Verstappen: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.exclusive-onboard-for-max-verstappens-dramatic-final-laps-of-2021-russian-gp.1712053013011421588.html
Here’s Toto Wolff on stating Red Bull pit decision made their decision easier