Max Verstappen might consider the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps to be one of his favourite tracks on the calendar, but he was no fan of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after labelling his latest run to third place ‘boring’.
The Red Bull started from the second row behind the two Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, and managed to fend off an early attack from Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo – Verstappen’s former team mate at Red Bull.
But once that was taken care of there was little opportunity to improve his fortunes for the remainder of the race and it was just a quiet afternoon drive in the Ardennes forest as far as Verstappen was concerned.
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“It was pretty boring to be honest,” he told the media after the finish. “It was not really enjoyable out there.
“I love this track but the race was not really the most exciting from my side. It wasn’t really much of a fight and I just tried to do my own race and maximise the result.
“Not very interesting, there wasn’t much to do. I couldn’t keep up with [the two Mercedes] when they started pushing,” he sighed.
“There was not much action up front unfortunately and the tyre wear was quite high so we couldn’t really push.”
In previous outings Verstappen has been able to bide his time, look after his tyres and pounce on any opportunities that presented themselves late in the race But that didn’t happen on Sunday: even though Mercedes struggled with tyre degradation, Verstappen himself was not significantly better off.
“On the medium, I didn’t really have a lot of grip,” he explained. “And on the hard tyre, initially I was trying to put a bit of pressure on Valtteri. But they told him to speed up and I couldn’t keep up
“I ran out of tyres at the end, so the last eight laps we mainly saved the front tyres,” he sighed. “We had no tyres left and I was not taking any risks.
“I was very close to a puncture,” he added. “I had some vibrations towards the end of the race so I really had to manage my tyres.”
The team did consider a late second pit stop, but Ricciardo was still running too close behind him to pull it off. Verstappen would have dropped to fourth place if he had made the extra stop, with no assurance of being able to make up the place again despite taking fresh tyres.
“I wasn’t sure if it was easy to overtake him at their top speed, so I wanted to stay out,” Verstappen said, accepting that he had got the best result he could on the day.
“More was not possible today. It was not the most satisfying P3, but it is better than nothing,” he said. “We are not here to finish third and we want more but it is always good to be on the podium.
“We maximised what we could,” he concluded. “Overall, we had a good weekend and the car balance was nice so we can be pleased with that
Red Bull boss Christian Horner conceded that it had been a tricky day for the team but was delighted by Verstappen’s sixth podium in a row.
“It was a tricky race today with tyre management but we managed to get solid points on the board with both cars,” he said.
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“Max didn’t quite have the pace to fight the Mercedes with tyre degradation in the second half of the race proving to be significant, so we were weighing up whether to one or two stop.
“Daniel’s straightline speed was obviously very strong so we opted to stick with a one-stop and Max managed to bring the car home for his sixth podium in a row.”
Alex Albon had a solid day after having to start the race on soft tyres compared to the mediums that Verstappen was on. Even so he was running in fifth place for the latter stage of the race, until he was passed on the final lap by Ricciardo’s team mate Esteban Ocon.
“[Alex] did a good job today defending hard throughout the Grand Prix but unfortunately the Renaults were just too fast on the straights with their lower downforce configuration,” Horner said.
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