After securing second place and taking the championship lead at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen summed up his race as being all about managing tires in the damp weather. The young Dutchman moves to the next race in Austin, Texas with a six-point lead over Lewis Hamilton.
Speaking during the post-race podium ceremony, Verstappen said:
“I think in a way it was better that it was a wet start than a dry start.”
During the FIA press conference, commenting on his relatively lonely race, he said:
“Yeah, considering our whole weekend being a bit off the pace compared to Mercedes, I think we had quite a decent race.”
On being asked if he could have capitalized on a win, Verstappen was up front about stating that at no point in the race did he have the pace to attack race leader Valtteri Bottas. The 23-year-old said:
“I mean in the beginning, I just tried to follow Valtteri but of course we had to manage the tires so I just dropped back a bit. At one point, we started to pick-up the pace a little bit, also because the track was drying a bit but yeah, there was no point where I would attack Valtteri and he was just managing his race of course also very well and looking after his tires.”
Verstappen's race was all about maintaining second place
Verstappen explained that when his team brought him in for Intermediate tires with around 20 laps to go, he mainly focused on getting the car home safely in second. He said:
“With like 20 laps to go, I think, I just decided to bring it home. I anyway didn’t have the pace to fight Valtteri, so there was also no need to try to be within two, three tenths, to try and just follow him. Just save the tires to the end, basically.”
On being asked whether it was difficult to generate grip from fresh intermediate tires, something that a lot of drivers, including Hamilton, struggled with, Verstappen said:
“It was a nice feeling because if you compare to the end of the first stint, you don’t have the grip anymore and you are really hanging onto the tire because also the rear tires are gone, so the beginning was just all about the management.”
Despite achieving a strong result at a circuit where they initially struggled, the young Red Bull driver did express his concerns about his rivals being stronger. He said:
“They were definitely quicker this weekend. We just didn’t get it together and also, in the wet, they seemed to have a bit of the edge as well. So we’ll have to analyze of course why we weren’t that competitive here.”
Looking forward to the next race, the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, Verstappen said:
“A lot of flat-out sections as well, tire wear is quite high as well, so there are a few things to look into.”
Most of the remaining races of the season are held on circuits that mostly favor the Red Bull. But perhaps more crucially, a strong result at an unfavorable circuit like Istanbul Park will have been a confidence booster for both the driver and team’s morale as they head into the next race.
With Red Bull Racing's current momentum, a possible win to end Mercedes' domination at the Circuit of the Americas is a realistic goal for Verstappen and the Milton Keynes outfit.