Max Verstappen said he could see his tyres opening up in the closing stages of the Austrian Grand Prix as he clung on for his first win of the year.
Verstappen was propelled into the lead of the race as drama unfolded in front, with Valtteri Bottas retiring and Mercedes failing to pit Lewis Hamilton under the ensuing Virtual Safety Car period. With tyres an issue for all the lead cars, Verstappen said he was doing everything he could to hold on under late pressure from Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
“It was amazing,” Verstappen said. “It was very hard to manage the tyres as well. We really had to look after them – there was a lot of blistering. We managed to hang on until the end. It’s amazing to win here with Red Bull at the Red Bull ring and with so many Dutch fans. It’s incredible.
I need to catch up with the points, so today was definitely a very good day for me and I just hope we can continue like this.”
Red Bull had looked to be a distant third in terms of raw pace all weekend and on Saturday afternoon had been out-qualified by Haas driver Romain Grosjean. However, the race turned out to be a different story.
“It was a bit unexpected, especially after our Friday pace and in the long runs. In the first stint, we could keep up well.
I tried to do my own race, saw Valtteri disappearing with a problem. We made the right call when Virtual Safety Car came out and we pitted.
“I was in the lead, I tried to do my own pace. Also from behind, there was no pressure. Daniel struggled with his tyres and Kimi was in second. I tried to manage, I could see my tyres opening up. I just had to drive around the issue. Luckily I could manage it until the end of the race.”
The result moves Verstappen to fifth in the championship, within a point of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo. After the race, his race engineer told him: “We are back in the fight”.