DRIVE OF THE YEAR

Max Ver­stap­pen 19th to fifth at the Rus­sian GP

F1 Racing (UK) - - AWARDS 2018 -

Earn­ing the sta­tus of ‘Driver of the Day’ isn’t a bad way to cel­e­brate your 21st birthday. It’s even more im­pres­sive when you didn’t make the podium but fin­ished a dis­tant fifth. Max Ver­stap­pen earned this ac­co­lade with his per­for­mance at the Rus­sian Grand Prix, where ac­cu­mu­lated en­gine penal­ties, plus a grid drop for a yel­low flag in­frac­tion, con­signed him to 19th on the grid.

Af­ter a su­perb start, in which he made up five po­si­tions by Turn 3, Ver­stap­pen pressed on and had made it to 11th by lap two. Hav­ing started on the soft tyre – ac­tu­ally the hard­est of the com­pound choices on of­fer – he was able to ex­tend the length of his first stint, in­her­it­ing the lead when those ahead of him pit­ted. Af­ter his stop, he emerged in fifth and charged to the flag. It was all the more im­pres­sive when you con­sider his Red Bull team-mate didn’t make the same progress. Dan Ricciardo made his one and only stop on lap 39, when his team changed his front wing: a piece of it had bro­ken off on the open­ing lap, hin­der­ing his per­for­mance.

You nar­rowly voted Ver­stap­pen’s Rus­sia drive ahead of Lewis Hamil­ton’s Ger­man GP win, where he too charged through the field. This begs the ques­tion: re­versed grids, any­one?

“It’s great to have sup­port from the fans as it mo­ti­vates me to do well, so thank you. Af­ter the good start in the race, we took the op­po­site strat­egy to the other cars and that seemed to work well. It was just a shame that I had to make a pit­stop, as oth­er­wise I think I could have won the race. I was ac­tu­ally quite sur­prised we went through the traf­fic so quickly, but the car bal­ance was very good on the day.”

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