Silverstone, United Kingdom: Max Verstappen re-established himself as a champion driver and entertainer of the future on Sunday when he claimed a flawless and well-judged tactical victory for Red Bull at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
A clever strategic choice by the team’s senior strategy engineer Hannah Schmitz, to start the race on hard compound tyres while most or their rivals opted for mediums, laid the foundations, but it was the Dutch tyro’s courage and speed that did the rest.
“Max was just chilling out at the beginning of the race, we had them covered today,” said team boss Christian Horner.
“Whatever they did, when they pitted, they could not pull away — Max was able to cover them.”
On a day of personal and family landmarks, the 22-year-old racer passed his father Jos as the Dutchman to have started most Formula One races and confirmed himself as the Netherlands most successful driver.
While Jos made 106 starts from 107 Grand Prix entries, Max has now started 107 from 107 and, with nine wins and 35 podiums, stands alone as his country’s outstanding F1 driver.
It was his first win since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, his first this year and the ninth of his burgeoning career, lifting him up to second in the drivers’ title race 30 points behind six-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
“That was very satisfying for us,” said Verstappen.
“We could have won last week when they had tyre blowouts, but that would not have been the same, but today was very good because we beat them on pure pace.
“They (Mercedes) really struggled on their tyres. They are too soft for this track, but (for us) it is shame that we won’t see them again at other tracks!”
He said he believed Red Bull can move closer to the speed of the Mercedes and sometimes put pressure on them, notably in hot conditions like those at Silverstone on Sunday and forecast for the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalonia next weekend.
He showed, also, that he has plenty in reserve when he is racing by producing a series of quips during the race as he headed to victory.
When he was asked to ease off in the early stages, to save his tyres, he rejected the idea saying “this is our chance to close up to the Mercedes – so I’m not going to drive like a grandma and follow them!”
Later, as he closed in on victory, he found the spare time and mental space to remind his team to obey the coronavirus health protocols.
“Did you hydrate during the race?” he asked. “You must have some sweaty hands, as well, so don’t forget to sanitise.”
Picking up on his Dutchman’s sense of humour afterwards, Horner told him his victory was a brilliant achievement.
“That was a perfectly sanitised race,” he said.