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Max second at Japanese GP: “A great day!”

Published on 08 October 2017 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen finished second at the Japanese Grand Prix on the Suzuka circuit. The youngster, driving for Red Bull Racing, had a great start and was second already after a few corners. Max started from fourth after having been promoted due to Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty. Lewis Hamilton took the victory home as Daniel Riccciardo came in third.

“It was a great day again”, says Max after the race on the podium. “Suzuka is great to me and I really love the track. The pace was promising. The first stint on the super softs I was struggling with the left front, but as soon as we switched to the softs we were actually very competitive. I was always with Lewis. Especially the last two laps we had great pace but it is really hard to pass here. The last two/three laps I gave it all to try and close the gap, the car is definitely improving, so I am happy about that.”

A bit later in the FIA press conference, Mas says the following: “I had a good start, but from there it was of course very hard to attack Lewis. We had a very good pace, especially on the softs, towards the end. I am very happy with this result and we never expected that we would be so strong in the race. To finish second here again is of course super!”

Before the start it’s more than 26 degrees in Suzuka. The track temperature is 15 degrees higher than during qualifying on Saturday. Mechanics are still frantically working on Sebastian Vettel’s car. The engine cover of the Ferrari was briefly off. Apparently the issue on the German’s car is related to a spark plug.

When the lights go out, Max has a rocket start and snatches P3 from Ricciardo. Not much later he also overtakes Vettel at the hairpin. Does Vettel have an issue?  Moments later, the safety car is deployed. Carlos Sainz has made an off course excursion. The Spaniard spun off track in the first lap in the last S-corners, and with that his final race for Toro Rosso is a fact.

When the field is let loose again, Hamilton retains his lead ahead of Max while Vettel keeps dropping back. Moments later he is given the order to box and his race is also over.

On lap nine there is another yellow flag. Marcus Ericsson has crashed into the tyre wall at Degner 2. Ericsson’s crash triggers a virtual safety car. Stoffel Vandoorne pits and the Belgian switches to the softs.

After the virtual safety car period is over, Ricciardo is able to overtake Esteban Ocon. The Ozzie moves up to P3 and is some six seconds down on Max. Valtteri Bottas also passes Ocon. The Finn is now fourth, the Frenchman is P5. Hamilton is slightly faster than Max and wins a few tenths per lap. Max in turn wins a few tenths per lap on his team mate running who is running in third.

The biggest threat for Red Bull Racing is from the back. Bottas is on the softs and is able to run longer. The Finn is three seconds down on Ricciardo. After eighteen laps, it’s time for the planned pit stops to start taking place. Kevin Magnussen is the first to come in.

Max comes in on lap 22. His pit stop is flawless. The fast Dutchman switches from the super softs to the softs. One lap later, Hamilton is also in and for him as well the pit stop goes without any hitch.

On his fresh rubbers, Max immediately tops the leaderboard. The difference with Hamilton has been brought down to just 1.8 seconds. When Ricciardo pits moments later, Bottas is leading the race. Max is doing faster lap times than Lewis and is catching the Brit. Red Bull expects Hamilton to finish the race on this set of tyres. That is what is told to Max on the radio.

Bottas lets Hamilton overtakes him and is right in front of Max. The Finn has his hands full with Verstappen. The Dutchman starts pushing but is unable to get pass him. Eventually Bottas makes his stop and Max moves up to the second spot. His deficit to front runner Hamilton has gone up to 3.4 seconds.

Max keeps catching Hamilton while Ricciardo is also gaining on Max. The lead on the Ozzie is more than nine seconds. Behind of Ricciardo Bottas is trailing, some nine seconds. At the back of the field, Nico Hülkenberg is having problems with his DRS. It won’t close, the German comes in and is the next one to drop out.

In the closing stages Bottas starts gaining on Ricciardo, who in turn is looking at an eleven seconds deficit to Max. Hamilton manages the gap to Max who is running 3 seconds behind of the Brit.

With still six laps to go, Lance Stroll spins of track in his Williams. There is something wrong with his front tyre and the second virtual safety car is deployed. One lap later the field is let loose again.

Bottas has closed the gap to Ricciardo, while Max has done the same with Hamilton. The Brit is complaining about a problem with his rear tyres on the radio. “Am I allowed to use everything”, Max asks his team. The answer is yes but it earns him nothing and Max finishes in second. Another excellent and flawless performance from the Dutchman. Ricciardo rounds up the podium. He stood firm under the pressure put on by Bottas.

Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka - Sunday 8 October

01 44 Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes                    	53 1:27:31.194  
02 33 Max Verstappen      Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer   	53 +1.211s  
03  3 Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer   	53 +9.679s  
04 77 Valtteri Bottas     Mercedes                    	53 +10.580s  
05  7 Kimi Raikkonen      Ferrari                     	53 +32.622s  
06 31 Esteban Ocon        Force India Mercedes        	53 +67.788s  
07 11 Sergio Perez        Force India Mercedes        	53 +71.424s  
08 20 Kevin Magnussen     Haas Ferrari                	53 +88.953s  
09  8 Romain Grosjean     Haas Ferrari                	53 +89.883s  
10 19 Felipe Massa        Williams Mercedes           	52 +1 lap  
11 14 Fernando Alonso     McLaren Honda               	52 +1 lap  
12 30 Jolyon Palmer       Renault                     	52 +1 lap  
13 10 Pierre Gasly        Toro Rosso                  	52 +1 lap  
14  2 Stoffel Vandoorne   McLaren Honda               	52 +1 lap  
15 94 Pascal Wehrlein     Sauber Ferrari              	51 +2 laps  
NC 18 Lance Stroll        Williams Mercedes           	45 DNF  
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg     Renault                     	40 DNF  
NC  9 Marcus Ericsson     Sauber Ferrari              	7 DNF  
NC  5 Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari                     	4 DNF  
NC 55 Carlos Sainz        Toro Rosso                  	0 DNF