BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Moments away from not even starting the race, Max Verstappen’s second place at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday felt like a victory for the Formula One driver.
Verstappen managed to crash his Red Bull car about 20 minutes before the race, rolling over a kerb on a warmup lap and slamming the front wing into the barriers.
“I locked (the brakes) and then I tried to brake again and locked again,” Verstappen said. “I went straight into the wall … I thought I was not going to race so to be second was like a victory.”
The unusual incident, especially for a driver of his ability, led to a race against time with mechanics replacing the front wing and the suspension as a helpless Verstappen waited inside the cockpit.
“It was just crazy. I was sitting in the car, I could hear the mechanics screaming at each other ’10 seconds, five seconds,'” Verstappen said. “I put my thumbs up and they were like ‘Yeah, it’s fixed.’ I don’t know how they did it but they were incredible.”
Then it was down to Verstappen to make the most of the last-gasp reprieve.
He drove brilliantly to hold off Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas by under one second, defending position for more than 30 laps at the Hungaroring against a faster car.
While it deprived Mercedes of yet another processional-like 1-2 finish after Lewis Hamilton coasted to victory, it also underlined Verstappen’s reputation as one of the coolest drivers under pressure.
“To split the two Mercedes is good for us,” Verstappen said.
Even more so considering that Verstappen started from seventh place on one of the hardest tracks in F1.
His chances of finishing on the podium were slim, but when Bottas made a poor start from second place the rapid Verstappen zoomed through into contention.
He felt he owed his mechanics some payback.
“They did an amazing job and I was really fired up,” said the 22-year-old Verstappen, who has won eight races so far in his promising career.
Verstappen’s second podium this season moved him into third place overall behind Bottas and Hamilton, who claimed the championship lead in his bid for a seventh F1 title to equal Michael Schumacher.
Including the end of last season, Verstappen has five podiums in six races. The only blip was this season’s opener in Austria, where he retired early on at the Red Bull Ring when well placed to challenge the winner Bottas.
Red Bull does not have the speed to challenge Hamilton yet, although the British driver thinks that could change later in the year.
“The Red Bulls are doing a great job,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure at some point they’re going to make some improvements.”
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