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Max Verstappen third in season start Australia: 'A very good start for us'

Published on 17 March 2019 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen achieved an excellent third place in the opening race on the street circuit of Albert Park in Melbourne. Starting fourth, Verstappen overtook the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel halfway through the race to a third place, finishing the race in that position only one second behind Lewis Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas dominantly drove to victory.

After the race Max looks back at his third place: “I had to overtake Sebastian to get onto the podium, which is not easy around here. I was happy to pull that move off, and also challenging Lewis for second place. Pretty pleased with that.”

“The car feels quite good, especially on the yellow, medium tyres”, continues the Dutchman. “On the soft, red tyre it was difficult to follow. As soon as you got close to another car, the tyres became to hot. That is why I had to keep my distance. As soon as I was driving the medium tyres, the car felt very good. I had a good balance and drove steadily to Sebastian, without damaging my tyres. When I had the chance to overtake, I went for it and it turned out good.”

In his pursuit of Hamilton, Verstappen shot off the track in the final phase of the race, but that little excursion had no consequences: “It was unfortunate”, explains Max. “I was changing some settings on the steering wheel and then braked too late and locked up. In the end I would not have been able to pass anyway. I had more speed than Sebastian. We were a little bit faster, but it is too difficult to overtake.”

Verstappen just missed the point for fastest lap. A point the Dutchman would have liked to add to his total: “I wanted to try it at least. It could mean an extra 21 points at the end of the season. If I had taken a bit more distance in the last lap, I may have taken it, but I wanted to keep the pressure on.”

Finally Max gives credit to his team and Honda: “To start the season on the podium, and to be able to challenge Mercedes is a very good start for us. Thanks to the team, especially after a difficult Friday. And a big thanks to Honda. Working with them has been great from the start, I really enjoy that. It is their first podium since 2008 and the first in the V6-era, so I am very happy for them.”

The first Grand Prix of the season starts under a bright sun. Max Verstappen had a good qualifying and starts the race in P4. Verstappen has, just as the rest of the top ten, soft tyres under his car. The Dutchman has a reasonably good start, but loses a place to Charles Leclerc when steering into the first turn. But the Ferrari driver goes wide, and Max takes over fourth position again.

After the start, Daniel Ricciardo goes over the grass and loses his front wing over a bump. Also Robert Kubica drives his front wing to pieces. In the lead Valtteri Bottas overtook his team mate Hamilton who started from pole.

In the eleventh lap, Carlos Sainz is the first to drop out. The Spaniard must stop his McLaren near the pit entrance with smoke coming out of the rear of his car.

Vettel is in lap fifteen the first of the top-five to pit. The German changes to the medium compound. One lap later Hamilton does the same. Because of those stops, Verstappen moves to second position. In lap 23 Bottas pits, and Verstappen is leading the race. Only for a short while as the Dutchman makes his pit stop in lap 26. After a quick change of tyres, in 2.3 seconds, Max comes out on track on the medium compound tyres in fifth position. Quickly that becomes fourth position when Leclerc makes his pit stop.

On his new tyres, Verstappen increases pressure on Vettel. In lap 31 Max attacks the German on the outside of turn three and succeeds straight away. Now the track is clear for Verstappen to pursue the second place of Hamilton. At the same time Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean have to retire their cars.

Pierre Gasly is in lap 37 the last driver to make a pit stop. The Frenchman, who started from seventeenth position after a strategy mistake in qualifying, comes out on track in eleventh position behind the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

With ten laps to go, in his pursuit of Hamilton, Max overshoots and goes over the grass at turn 1. However, it does not have any consequences. The Dutchman closes in on Hamilton and even sets the fastest lap at the time. However, in the second-to-last lap Bottas sets a new fastest lap, and so the extra point for fastest lap goes to the Finn.

In the end Bottas wins the Grand Prix of Australia with a twenty second lead on team mate Hamilton. Verstappen finishes 1.6 seconds after that in P3. This is the sixth consecutive podium for Max and his first in Australia. The Ferrari’s of Vettel and Leclerc finish well behind in fourth and fifth position. Kevin Magnussen scores a fine sixth position for Haas. Nico Hulkenberg, Kimi Raikonen, Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat complete the top-ten.

Results Grand Prix Australia:

1Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes581:25:27.32526
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes58+20.886s18
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda58+22.520s15
4Sebastian VettelVETFerrari58+57.109s12
5Charles LeclercLECFerrari58+58.230s10
6Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari58+87.156s8
7Nico HulkenbergHULRenault57+1 lap6
8Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari57+1 lap4
9Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes57+1 lap2
10Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda57+1 lap1
11Pierre GaslyGASRed Bull Racing Honda57+1 lap0
12Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault57+1 lap0
13Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes57+1 lap0
14Alexander AlbonALBScuderia Toro Rosso Honda57+1 lap0
15Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari57+1 lap0
16George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes56+2 laps0
17Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes55+3 laps0
0Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari29DNF0
0Daniel RicciardoRICRenault28DNF0
0Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault9DNF0