Max Verstappen was encouraged to be bold in his fight with Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix as he knew the Formula 1 championship leader has more to risk by battling for position.
Verstappen passed Hamilton on Lap 4 in Malaysia en route to his second F1 win, dominating the remainder of the race and finishing 12 seconds clear of the Mercedes driver at the checkered flag.
Verstappen sensed from the beginning there would be an opportunity to fight with Hamilton, and was happy to force the issue knowing his rival had a championship lead to protect.
“I think in the beginning straightaway the car felt good. I saw Lewis struggling with traction, so I used my battery as much as I could,” Verstappen said.
“He has more to lose than me in the championship, so I went for it at Turn 1. From there on I could do my own race.
“The car was unbelievable today. I had the pace. If I needed to speed up, I speeded up. It’s amazing, a very tough race. Incredible to win.”
The result marked only Verstappen’s second appearance on the podium this season, having only finished in the top three back in China, the second round of the season.
In a year that has left the Dutchman largely frustrated with frequent reliability issues, he admitted the victory was all the sweeter.
“Especially after the season I’ve had, I think this victory came at a very good time,” Verstappen said.
“I was really happy when I crossed the line.”
Coming just one day after his 20th birthday, the result sees Verstappen become the youngest driver in F1 history to win multiple grands prix, beating the record set by Sebastian Vettel at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix.