Getty Images

Verstappen doubts Japanese GP victory possible even with late charge

Leave a comment

Max Verstappen doubts he could have won Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix despite the charge that saw him put pressure on Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton late on at Suzuka.

Verstappen moved from fourth on the grid to second on the opening lap where he remained for much of the race, sitting five seconds back from Hamilton heading into the closing stages.

Hamilton struggled with lapped traffic and a vibration on his tire, allowing Verstappen to close up with two laps to go and run nose-to-tail with the Mercedes racer.

Verstappen came unstuck through traffic and ultimately crossed the line 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton, but said after the race he never felt he could take the win.

“I could see Lewis was managing his tires and of course, with the traffic it just seems like it was a bit more difficult for him to follow other cars, compared to me,” Verstappen explained.

“So I closed up, but also when you are really close you start to lose a lot of downforce, so I couldn’t really attack him. But at least I tried.

“At the end of the day I think I wouldn’t have passed Lewis anyway, because it’s really hard once he’s in free air. It was more like when Lewis was getting held up then I could close up and then maybe you can do something.

“But once he got past, even when I got held up, it’s done. It’s of course not ideal but it wouldn’t have made a difference.”

The result marked Verstappen’s second straight podium following his victory in Malaysia last weekend, with the Dutchman taking confidence from the progress Red Bull has made with its car recently.

“I think the car lately in the race has been really competitive. I think like Lewis said, we have a bit more wing, so we are quite competitive through the corners,” Verstappen said.

“Of course then on the straight we have an even bigger deficit than normal, but it seems to work for us in the race so far.

“Of course I’m happy to be here on the podium again. It seems like Suzuka is pretty good to me.”

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.