Great P2 for Max in Japan: “Very happy”
Published on 09 October 2016 by Mike Motilall
Max Verstappen finished quite decently in second place at the Japanese Grand Prix. Since his promotion to Red Bull Racing, this has been the sixth podium finish for the Dutchman. Max was able to fend off, in the final laps of the race, the immense pressure put on by Lewis Hamilton. He squeezed himself in between the Mercedes duo, as Nico Rosberg was running five seconds ahead for the victory. As Sebastian Vettel eventually only finished in fourth, the youngster has relegated him from his fifth position in the standings. Mercedes have affirmed their win of the constructor’s championship due to the two podium finishes today.
“Lewis was pushing very hard in the final lap and we both had a moment in the last chicane, but I am very happy with this second place”, says Max on the podium. “During the race we had a lot of traffic to deal with but it was very important to save the tyres. We had a great strategy and to finish between the two Mercedes is very positive. I need to thank the team for that.”
“The start went very well”, Verstappen later added. “During the race, the team and I communicated very well about how much we needed to push and where we needed to save our tyres. To be able to race Mercedes at the end, feels very good. At the beginning of the race, you try to look in front of you, but when you see Rosberg pulling away from you, you know that it’s going to be very difficult. Then you start looking more behind of you, but I was able to balance that very well as we needed to make sure we were not undercut. We kept coming in very early so that felt very good. Actually, we were keeping an eye on Vettel, but he ended up behind of Hamilton and lost his race there. Then we ran into traffic which affected us a lot, causing them to gain on us. My front tyres were almost worn out at the end of the race which gave Hamilton an opportunity to launch an attack. I knew I needed a good exit out of the last chicane to keep him away from me. I needed to save the extra power from the electrical system for the other straight where I needed it the most.”Was it a late move? No, certainly not. I saw Lewis go on the inside, but that was from quite far away, so I am not going to leave the door open.”
Even before the lights turn green for the Japanese Grand Prix, Max has already won a position: Kimi Raikkonen gets a gearbox change even before the start, this results in a grid penalty, dropping him from third to eighth. This means that Max, now in third, is able to start the race on the race line. This proved to be very profitable: Lewis Hamilton is slow in getting off the line, leaving Max to claim the second spot. Behind of Max, Sergio Perez has a good start and forms a buffer to Daniel Ricciardo in fourth. Which shortly turned into fifth as Sebastian Vettel overtakes the Ossie from the outside in the 130R.
The pressure on Max seems to be getting bigger when Vettel passes Perez, but the Dutchman repels the attack from the Ferrari-driver by doing the same lap times. The gap between the two is more than two seconds, when Max reports on the radio that the grip from his tyres is starting to diminish. The gap with the front runner is only five seconds at that moment, but Verstappen is doing lap times that are marginally slower than Rosberg’s. Still his tyre wear is so great, that he does his first pit stop on lap eleven to switch to the harder compound. Het rejoins in seventh, just in front of Esteban Gutierrez.
Max is handed the sixth spot when Hulkenberg does his pit stop. Rosberg and Vettel both make their stop, putting Verstappen again in between the two of them. When Hamilton also pits, the Red Bull-driver ends up running in second again. Lap after lap, the threesome is doing almost the same lap times. On lap 20, Verstappen makes his second and final pit stop. He switches to the harder compound again, which puts him in fourth, right in front of his team mate. Rosberg also pits, following the Dutchman’s strategy, and stays ahead of him.
Vettel continues on, but runs into traffic, causing him to lose a lot of time. As oppose to the rest of the field, running on the same tyre strategy, Vettel chooses to go with the soft tyre for his final stint. The German fails to overtake Hamilton’s Mercedes fast enough resulting in him losing the edge of the softer compound tyre and having to give up the thought of a podium finish. Both cars are fast approaching Verstappen, who is still running quite steadily in second place. Even the Dutchman is complaining about the back markers, to which he is losing a lot of time. With seven laps remaining, Hamilton has caught up with Verstappen within DRS range. But the youngster is firmly holding on to his position. In a manner that resembles the one-to-one fight with Raikkonen in Spain where he came out on top: with excellent traction out of the last chicane he manages to repel the attack from the faster Mercedes.
Just before the last lap, Hamilton tries to pass the Dutchman in the Casio chicane, but Max defends his position with everything he has. Causing the Brit to out brake himself and miss the chicane. This earns Max the second spot. Rosberg wins the race with a five seconds lead on the Dutchman. The constructor’s titel has been secured by Hamilton coming in in third.
Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka - Sunday 9 October
01 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 53 1:26:43.333 02 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 53 +4.978s 03 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 +5.776s 04 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 +20.269s 05 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 53 +28.370s 06 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 53 +33.941s 07 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 53 +57.495s 08 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 53 +59.177s 09 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 53 +97.763s 10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 53 +98.323s 11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 53 +99.254s 12 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault 52 +1 lap 13 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Ferrari 52 +1 lap 14 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault 52 +1 lap 15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 52 +1 lap 16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 52 +1 lap 17 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Ferrari 52 +1 lap 18 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 52 +1 lap 19 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari 52 +1 lap 20 21 Esteban Gutierrez Haas Ferrari 52 +1 lap 21 31 Esteban Ocon MRT Mercedes 52 +1 lap 22 94 Pascal Wehrlein MRT Mercedes 52 +1 lap