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Behind Verstappen’s second place in Sochi

Max Verstappen passed the chequered flag at P2 despite starting from the end. The Dutchman charged through the field and with the right pit call, came just behind Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, sprays Champagne from the podium
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, sprays Champagne from the podium
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen started the Russian Grand Prix with a grid-place penalty. To race from the end at a track where Mercedes dominate, fighting with a strong midfield and having Valtteri Bottas as a company; doesn’t sound like a great weekend. And never could the Milton Keynes team thought of getting a podium in such circumstances. But well, it happened.

Verstappen’s overtakes

The first stint on hard tyres saw him swiftly marching through the pack. Even the Mercedes’ tactical decision of getting Bottas down with a penalty to hold Max, didn’t work. Rather, it felt like the Finn gifted his 14th place to Max by leaving the door open on the inside of Turn 13. And did we mention it was on lap 6? Yes, the plan failed that quickly!

There was a breathtaking moment when Verstappen was almost into the wall. This occurred as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc tried to strike his old teammate, Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen looking at this opportunity to gain two positions took the inside route.

However, this did not last long because Charles backed off, not realizing that Max was on his side. It would have been a nasty crash but Max managed to get out of that danger. Soon in the next corner, he passed the prancing horses. Into Turn 13, he also got the move done over Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.

Temporarily he was in sixth place on lap 21. He was called into the pits by the end of lap 22 and drove out with medium tyres. Though rejoining the race at P12, he covered some places after the drivers in front went for pitstops.

Max found himself behind his teammate, Sergio Perez who was driving at P5. The thrill of moving forward was stalled when his tyres started degrading. This happened because of the tyre graining, a problem other drivers also complained of.

And the rain came

On lap 46, the rain was no more a data on the radar – it showed its presence on the final two sectors, sending everyone in chaos. Some drivers became the victim and others, the likes of Max Verstappen, profited on the nature’s arrival.

He went into the pits at the correct moment. Not too early as it would damage the intermediate tyres and not too late as to ruin his efforts of gaining some points.

Coming out of the pitlane at lap 50, he found himself with the advantage of grip that others on slicks were struggling with. With Norris spinning off and changing his tyres very late in the race, bringing down his qualifying result to a naught, Max crossed the finishing line with an unbelievable second place.

Read More: Bottas says pitting one lap earlier would have netted him a top three finish in Russian GP

Verstappen’s reaction to a ‘very important’ P2

Even though Max Verstappen is a fierce driver, getting a podium place in the chaotic Sochi race was not less than a surprise for him.

“If you would have told me this morning that I would come second today, I wouldn’t believe you. But luckily the call to go from the slicks to the inters was the perfect one I think, the right lap… [So] super pleased for this.”

And especially also with the conditions, it’s already very hard to pass. But then also today because of track conditions and whatever, the tyres were graining a lot, so you also couldn’t really push or stay close to someone… All in all to come away with second here was, of course, very important.”

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