Max Verstappen sixth in Australian Grand Prix: “Car hard to drive”

Published on 25 March 2018 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen finished sixth fastest at the season’s opener in Australia. On the Albert Park circuit, the Dutchman, starting from fourth, was overtaken by Kevin Magnussen. Chasing after the Dane, Verstappen spun on lap ten, causing him to drop back all the way to P8. Due to the retirement of both cars from Haas, the Dutchman managed to get back up to sixth, but got stuck there behind of Fernando Alonso. Sebastian Vettel won the race. By doing a stop during the virtual safety car, the German was able to take down Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen rounded up the podium.

Despite a somewhat disappointing result, Verstappen doesn’t think that he has much to be blamed for. He explains after the race: “The start was quite okay. Then I got pushed a bit on the wrong side, causing Magnussen to go round the outside. That can happen. After five, six laps, I was suddenly having a lot of understeer while running behind of Magnussen. Something had broken off from the car causing me to lose a lot of grip in the middle of the corners. Then I took the first corner and lost the car. After a 360 degree spin, I was able to continue on and even lucky to not have lost even more positions.”

“During my pitstop, the team saw the damage as well. The parts had come off before I had the spin. Nobody knows how this happened. This made me lose all the grip and the car was hard to drive. The team was actually surprised that I was able to maintain those lap times.”

In the closing stages of the race, Max got stuck behind of Alonso and overtaking the Spaniard was impossible: “You are just not able to overtake here, but that was to be expected. Even if you are a second or a second-and-a-half quicker, there is just no possibility.”

Despite everything, Max is not all too disappointed: “These things can happen. Given the circumstances, with the damage we had, we still scored some decent points.” The speed of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 seemed to be ok as well: “As soon as we were in clean air, it went well. The speed also was fine, so we don’t have to worry. We only need to focus on doing a flawless qualifying and everything should pan out well during the race. Up to the next one”, says the feisty Dutchman.

Under a bright shining sun, the drivers get ready for the start of the first Grand Prix of the season on the 5,303 meter long Albert Park circuit in Melbourne. At the start, Max gets reasonably well off the line but is immediately overtaken by Kevin Magnussen in his Haas.

On lap 5, Daniel Ricciardo snatches seventh place from Nico Hulkenberg while Sergey Sirotkin is the first drop out of the season as he is forced to park his Williams trackside due to brake problems. One lap later, Marcus Ericsson also needs to bring his car to the pits due to some technical issues. Max is, at that moment, still running in fifth and is stuck behind of Kevin Magnussen.

In his hunt for Magnussen, Max spins on lap ten at Turn one. The Dutchman takes too much momentum in the corner and does a full 360. Without any damages he is able to continue on, but now in P8.

Pierre Gasly needs to leave the battlefield on lap 15 due to a technical issue with his Toro Rosso, while Max reports on the radio to his team that something appears to be wrong with his car as he is having much oversteer. Not much later, this is also confirmed by his team.

On lap nineteen, Raikkonen is the first of the front runners to come in for a pit stop. The ultra-softs are swapped for the soft compound tyre. One lap later, Hamilton also straps on fresh tyres, while Vettel continues on. Max does his first stop on lap 22. The Dutchman also switches to the soft compound. Kevin Magnussen retires his Haas right after his pit stop because of a wheel that hasn’t been mounted correctly. This is no coincidence, as team mate Romain Grosjean is also forced to give up due to the same wheel issue. A huge let down for the Haas team, as they were running in fourth and fifth before the retirements.

The safety car is deployed because Grosjean’s car is not parked in an ideal spot. This clears the way for Vettel to maintain his lead after doing a pit stop, while this gets on Hamilton’s nerves. Fernando Alonso also does his stop and rejoins side-by-side with Max. Max overtakes the Spaniard, but the FIA decides that Max still needs to give back Alonso his position.

On lap 32 the pack is let loose again. Nico Hulkenberg tries his hand at overtaking Max, but the Dutchman stands fast and keeps his position. In the final twenty laps, Max starts mounting the pressure on Alonso’s fifth place. But seeing that overtaking is almost impossible on Albert Park, there is no successful attack and he remains in P6. Hamilton is also forced to seize his chase after Vettel in the closing stages of the race. Vettel wins the season’s opener. Team mate Raikkonen is third fastest, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. The McLaren team have, after some tough years, reason to be happy again with Alonso in fifth and Stoffel Vandoorne in ninth.

Results Grand Prix Australia:

1Sebastian VettelVETFerrari581:29:33.28325
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes58+5.036s18
3Kimi RäikkönenRAIFerrari58+6.309s15
4Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer58+7.069s12
5Fernando AlonsoALOMcLaren Renault58+27.886s10
6Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer58+28.945s8
7Nico HulkenbergHULRenault58+32.671s6
8Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes58+34.339s4
9Stoffel VandoorneVANMcLaren Renault58+34.921s2
10Carlos SainzSAIRenault58+45.722s1
11Sergio PerezPERForce India Mercedes58+46.817s0
12Esteban OconOCOForce India Mercedes58+60.278s0
13Charles LeclercLECSauber Ferrari58+75.759s0
14Lance StrollSTRWilliams Mercedes58+78.288s0
15Brendon HartleyHARScuderia Toro Rosso Honda57+1 lap0
0Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari24DNF0
0Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari22DNF0
0Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda13DNF0
0Marcus EricssonERISauber Ferrari5DNF0
0Sergey SirotkinSIRWilliams Mercedes4DNF0