Verstappen makes Hamilton take notice after podium charge
By Abhishek Takle
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Max Verstappen made certain of leaving a lasting impression on Lewis Hamilton by putting in a storming drive to go from near the back of the grid to the podium in Sunday’s Formula One Chinese Grand Prix.
The triple world champion and the teenaged Red Bull driver engaged in some light-hearted banter on the podium, withHamilton, while summing up the race, hesitating mid-sentence and seemingly forgetting Verstappen’s name before calling him “this young guy here".
“You always call me ‘this guy’,” responded a smiling Verstappen, who was sharing the podium with Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel together for the first time.
“I do? Okay, this dude, this dude,” Hamilton said, putting his arm around the 19-year-old Dutchman’s shoulder.
Verstappen started Sunday’s race 16th after a misfiring engine hobbled him in qualifying.
He made rapid progress up the field, overtaking nine cars in the damp and treacherous conditions on the first lap alone.
He ran as high as second behind Hamilton and fended off late-race pressure from team mate Daniel Ricciardo to finish third and give Red Bull their 100th podium place.
Asked if passing all those cars on the opening lap felt like playing a video game, Verstappen said: “More or less. It felt a bit like that.
“I gained one or two positions and then...trying to go round the outside in turn one, I got another car,” he added later, taking journalists through his first-lap heroics that won him the fans’ vote as driver of the day.
“Then inside turn two, another car, outside turn three...always trying to go around the outside or inside and it worked. Yeah, nine cars is quite a lot on one lap.”
Verstappen, son of former racer Jos, has taken Formula One by storm since he made his debut two years ago as a 17-year-old.
His racecraft and uncompromising approach to overtaking have also won him a legion of fans.
Some of his drives — such as his thrilling display of bravery and skill at a drenched Interlagos last year — have even drawn comparisons with greats Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
He has, though, also ruffled some feathers, clashing most notably with Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel.
Hamilton, though, has been among his staunchest supporters and was again full of admiration for his young rival on Sunday.
“I quite like him up here next to us,” he said. “I think he’s been a real breath of fresh air for everyone.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)