Maximizing by claiming P3 in the championship
2019 marks a year of change for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. Not only does the team switch to a new engine partner, Honda, but Max Verstappen has to battle a new team mate, Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman has graduated from Scuderia Toro Rosso and replaces the Renault bound Daniel Ricciardo.
Max starts the season with a podium (P3) in Melbourne. It is Honda’s first podium since their return to F1 in 2015. For Max, the third spot in Australia is his sixth rostrum in a row, after a strong end to his 2018 campaign.
In the following races, Max is unable to keep up with the dominant Mercedes. The Dutchman maximises results by scoring three fourth places in a row (Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan), beating at least one Ferrari in the process.
At the first European race, in Spain, Max clinches his second podium of the year, another third place. In Monaco, Max battles Lewis Hamilton for the win, but an unsafe release by the Red Bull Racing pit crew, means Max’ 5 second penalty prevents him from reaching the top step of the podium.
In Canada, Max is unable to progress through to Q3 after he has to abort his flying lap following a Kevin Magnussen crash. In the race, Max finishes fifth, before going on to France where he takes fourth.
The Austrian Grand Prix marks a turning point in Max’ season. After a terrible start, dropping him back to tenth at the end of the first lap, Max fights his way to the front, ultimately taking the lead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with three laps remaining. The first win of the season is also Honda’s first in the turbo-hybrid-era.
In the next race at Silverstone, Max looks sets for another podium before being wiped out by Sebastian Vettel. Nevertheless, he can salvage fifth, before going on to claim a spectacular win at the next round in Hockenheim. In a rain interrupted race, Max keeps his cool to take the chequered flag.
Continuing his strong form, Max collects his first pole position of his career in Hungary. In the race, Hamilton is quicker, but a second place marks a strong end to the first half of 2019.
After the summer break, Pierre Gasly is dropped in favour of Scuderia Toro Rosso graduate Alex Albon. Spa, despite thousands of Dutch fans supporting Max, proves a frustrating weekend after a first corner clash with Raikkonen results in a DNF. Things continue to be challenging in Monza where Max starts at the back of the grid, following an engine penalty. At the start of the race, Max damages his front wing in the run into turn 1, before battling back to P8.
Singapore marks a return to form with a third place. However. a fourth place in Russia is followed by two tough weekends. In Japan, Max gets hit by Charles Leclerc in the first corner; the damage caused is too severe to finish the race.
In Mexico, Max is on his way to clinch a second pole. However, he drives too fast past a yellow flag zone in the final corner. The result is a three-place grid penalty. In the race, Max and Hamilton both end up off track at the first corner, loosing positions in the process. In an attempt to work his way back up the order, Max executes a daring move on Bottas, who slices Max’ rear tyre, causing a puncture for the Dutchman. Despite dropping all the way to the back, Max keeps fighting and ultimately finishes the race in sixth.
The United States Grand Prix in Texas, in which Max finishes third, is his 100th Formula 1 start. Brazil finally delivers a second pole position and the Dutchman dominates the race, despite several safety cars. Max finishes the year with a second place in Abu Dhabi.
In the end, 2019 is Max’ most successful season in Formula 1 thus far: a third place in the championship (278 points), two pole positions and three wins build the excitement for a title mounting campaign in 2020.