Max Verstappen’s drive to third place has drawn praise from all corners of the F1 paddock, but Christian Horner summed it up by comparing the drive to the legendary performances of Ayrton Senna at Monaco in 1984 and Michael Schumacher at Barcelona in 1996.
Both were wet weather drives of great confidence and bravura, featuring instinctive overtakes. Senna finished second to Alain Prost in Monaco, while Schumacher won in Spain.
Verstappen held second place until Red Bull pitted him for Intermediates, a very optimistic move which caused him to have to make up 13 places to regain the podium. So it was a different kind of drive.
Time will tell whether Verstappen will go on to achieve a fraction of what those two great drivers managed, but there is no question this was the breakthrough drive of his fledgling career. He has been a controversial figure at times this season with his defensive moves, but this was a drive of pure attack.
Responding to a question on comparisons with the legendary wet weather drives from this website, Horner said,
“I think it’s right up there; you have to compare it to those great moments. You don’t often witness a motor race like that, What we witnessed today was something very special.
“They don’t get much better than that. It was a difficult race for everyone, the conditions wet tricky all afternoon. He quickly moved past Kimi with a decisive move and from that point on you could see he meant business. The audacious move on Nico round the outside Turn 3 was the start of things to come.”
Later in the paddock Damon Hill, who was in the 1996 Spain race with Schumacher, also agreed that Verstappen’s drive deserved to be compared with the very best wet weather performances in the sport.
What struck Hill was the quality of the overtaking; the moves on Raikkonen and Rosberg were on similar tyre conditions whereas later his tyres were 20 laps fresher than many of the cars he was racing against, but Hill argues that this doesn’t matter; he highlighted the fact that the speed of instinct in the moves is what showed genius, not to mention complete self belief.
But he also pointed to the presence of mind to back out of some situations, knowing that he would go off track if he tried to insist. In contrast Sebastian Vettel and even Fernando Alonso found themselves off track in close combat.
Red Bull took a strategy gamble to try to win the race with Verstappen, pitting him when he was ahead of Rosberg in second place. It didn’t pay off because the rain intensified and Verstappen decided that the Intermediate tyres were not going to work and they went back to the wet tyres. This put him down in 16th place and he managed to fight back to finish third.
“All of his moves were great, losing very little time with the moves he made, said Horner. “He raced hard with Sebastian, with Kimi into Turn 1, I think he found grip and his confidence was extremely high.
“It demonstrates what a phenomenal talent he is.”
For all his bravado, this was a poor set of decisions by Red Bull on strategy, as we will analyse in the UBS Race Strategy Report here on Tuesday.
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