Verstappen charges from 16th to P3 in China, early laps like a video game

Leave a comment

Max Verstappen produced one of the outstanding displays of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th on the grid to finish third, scoring Red Bull’s 100th podium finish in Formula 1.

Verstappen qualified 19th on Saturday due to an engine issue on his Red Bull RB13, but started 16th following a handful of grid penalties for the cars around him.

With moves reminiscent of his charge through the pack in Brazil last year, Verstappen scythed through the field on the opening lap, rising from 16th to seventh.

Verstappen ran as high as second after passes on Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo on slick tires, but could not stop Sebastian Vettel from taking the position back later in the race, leaving him to settle for third.

“Yeah it was very challenging. I think lap one I passed nine cars, so yeah not too bad,” Verstappen said.

When asked if the first lap felt like a video game, Verstappen said: “More or less. It felt a bit like that. I was very happy about that.

“Then afterwards I think it was a very good race. I didn’t have a lot of track time with the car balance from yesterday because of qualifying yesterday, I was basically nursing the car to the finish.

“Of course [I’m] very happy to be on the podium. I didn’t expect that at all, starting 16th.”

While it did not quite match the lofty heights of his charge to the podium in Brazil last year, Verstappen said the race would definitely rank in the top five of his career.

“I always find it difficult to compare but it’s definitely one of the best. Of course I’m very happy with it,” Verstappen said.

“Looking back to last year, obviously a victory is very special, one of my best for the moment, and Brazil was also very nice.

“But this is definitely in my top five.’

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.