Max Verstappen said he enjoyed reading speculation Red Bull’s rivals had closed the gap to them prior to his dominant win in Austria today.Charles Leclerc in the closing stages, which was enough for him to make a pit stop and come out still ahead of his rival and then use a fresh set of tyres to take the bonus point for fastest lap as he crossed the finishing line.
His margin of victory in Canada two weeks ago was less emphatic – he led Fernando Alonso to the chequered flag by nine-and-a-half seconds, without time to make an extra pit stop, which prompted some to claim Red Bull’s rivals had begun to erode their massive performance advantage.
When it was put to him that today’s race showed Red Bull’s nearest rivals had not closed the gap to them, Verstappen said: “Exactly. But I loved all the articles about it.”
“Some weekends work a bit better for you and some don’t,” he explained. “For me, Montreal wasn’t that fantastic in the race from our side. Here I think we did a really good job and naturally the gap is a bit bigger.”
Red Bull were confident enough in their pace not to take advantage of an early Virtual Safety Car period to make a pit stop, as their pursuers did. Verstappen said he never doubted that was the right call, despite falling briefly behind the Ferraris after he came in later in the race.
That cost Verstappen the lead of a race for the first time since the Miami Grand Prix two months ago. Verstappen’s run of 248 consecutive laps at the front ended when he made his first pit stop on lap 24, handing the lead of the race to Leclerc.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
The two Ferrari drivers, who were running behind Verstappen, pitted under the Virtual Safety Car period early in the race. Despite not taking advantage of pitting under the reduced speeds, and falling behind both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr when he pitted later, Verstappen said he always had confidence he would end up ahead of the Ferraris.
“I could see already the few laps before the Virtual Safety Car came out, we were pulling out quite a gap so I knew that I would get them back eventually,” he said. “I think just following our own plan at the time was the best way forward.”
Verstappen came under attack from Leclerc throughout the first half of the opening lap but managed to remain ahead. Despite falling behind Leclerc after his first pit stop, Ferrari did not look like a serious threat to Verstappen’s win over the course of the race.
“I think most important for me was on lap one to stay in front,” said Verstappen. “After that we could do our own race.
“Of course, we opted not to box during the Virtual Safety Car and just follow our normal strategy and I think that worked out really well because the tyre life was not that high around here, and I think our stints were perfect.”
Despite taking his seventh win of the season and his fifth consecutive victory to hold a commanding 81 point lead in the drivers’ championship over team mate Sergio Perez, Verstappen says he is not concerning himself with thinking about the championship picture just yet.
“I’m just enjoying the moment, driving with this car, working with the team,” he said.
“I think the whole weekend we have done a really good job. A sprint weekend is always very, very hectic and a lot of things can go wrong and luckily a lot of things went right for us this weekend. So I’m just very happy with this weekend and we’ll focus again on Silverstone.”
Bringing the F1 news from the source
RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.
By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.
We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
2023 Austrian Grand Prix
- Mercedes left scratching heads by lack of performance at Austrian GP
- Verstappen’s determination to grab every point makes him a record-breaker
- Austrian GP track limits farce was avoidable like ‘IndyGate’ and Spa 2021 – Brown
- Alpine now “definitely beatable” for McLaren after upgrade – Brown
- Paddock Diary: 2023 Austrian Grand Prix