MAX Verstappen has backed up his father’s comments on how he was “p***ed off” after Daniel Ricciardo’s Mexico pole, saying he felt like he could “could do some damage to someone”.
The Dutchman was the man to beat all weekend having set the quickest times in practice, but Ricciardo reminded everyone what he could do with a dramatic quickest lap with only seconds remaining to qualify on pole.
In doing so, the Australian denied his teammate the record of becoming the youngest ever pole-sitter for a Formula One Grand Prix, leading the 21-year-old’s father Jos to say his son was annoyed with Ricciardo for the way he over-celebrated.
“He was especially annoyed by missing the pole and by the car, but also by Ricciardo,” Jos Verstappen told Ziggo Sport after Mexico. “He celebrated his pole position with an exuberance as if he had become world champion. He (Max) was very angry.”
Ricciardo said he understood Verstappen’s annoyance because they are all competitors who don’t like to lose, but Verstappen has now revealed exactly how angry he was, admitting he was ready to start a fight with the next person who crossed him.
“I was mainly very angry because of the problems I had with my engine during qualifying,” Verstappen said. “That weekend I was clearly fastest, but for 75 seconds I wasn’t. I was literally p***ed off.
“And of course everything little thing that comes with it makes me even more angry.
“I could literally do some damage to someone if somebody would say something wrong to me after qualifying, that angry I was. Every little thing makes it even worse.”
As a result of Ricciardo’s pole, Verstappen missed out on breaking Lewis Hamilton’s record for F1’s youngest pole-sitter, but the Dutchman insisted he didn’t care about that at all, and sure the five-time world champion doesn’t either.
“For me I was not really after the youngest pole record. I don’t think Lewis (Hamilton) really cares that he’s not the youngest pole sitter, with five titles, you know what I mean? It’s not a big deal,” Verstappen said. “Just fighting for pole, that was the target.
“For me it felt like I never really had a great opportunity, compared to some other qualifying sessions where felt like it was great, a good feeling, and then you’re only P3 or P5 sometimes, but it felt like it was a good session.
“This felt horrible, and then you’re still second by such a small margin.”
Formula One could return to Malaysia at the Sepang International Circuit as early as 2022, with the prospect of Supercars joining them as a support category not ruled out.
The Malaysian Grand Prix was scrapped from the F1 calendar for 2018, with the 2017 edition being the last of Sepang’s contract before they decided to stop hosting it.
Sepang had been a fixture on the calendar since 1999 but decided to focus their investment elsewhere, whilst still retaining their most popular event, the Malaysian MotoGP, which has been staged there since 1991 and garnered more than 100,000 spectators in 2018.
The decision to drop F1 has seen space fill up for other categories to take its place and Supercars was one of those considered, with only a public survey by fans stopping it from getting over the line in 2017 for the following year.
“The last time we spoke on the V8s, initially we really wanted to have it to Malaysia as one of the alternative events to replacing Formula One,” Sepang International Circuit’s CEO Razlan Razali told foxsports.com.au.
“However, our board of directors felt it was necessary to conduct a fan survey from out social media platform and we did just that. The response was, unfortunately, that Supercars came fifth behind World Superbikes and Japan SuperGT.
“I will not say we’ve completely closed the door on them. If the demand is there… when we decided to end Formula One, there’s a lot of promotions besides Supercars that wanted to be the next big event for us. If there is a strong demand for Supercars in the future then we will definitely consider it.”
Current Supercars CEO Sean Seamer is a keen advocate of a staging a Supercars race outside of Australia and New Zealand with Singapore a contender as a support category for Formula One, as it has now become when the Australian Grand Prix comes to Melbourne.
However, since Seamer took over the role from predecessor James Warburton, Razali admitted he had not had any contact with Supercars.
“The last time we spoke [with Supercars] was to regret that we could not move forward because of the fan surveys that we did,” he added.
“They were very much aware of it. We received all the final proposals from them but the last stage was approval from the board so unfortunately the fans said otherwise on what they wanted to see next in Sepang. It’s all about what the fans want. That’s important.”
Supercars could still come to Sepang as part of a deal to bring back Formula One, which is a key desire of Malaysia’s new Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who also happens to be the founder of the Sepang International Circuit.
The Prime Minister was the man to first bring F1 to the country back in 1999 and Razali revealed it could be back on the calendar as early as 2022 – as long as the sport’s new owners Liberty Media still wanted Sepang, given their affinity for introducing more street circuit races.
“Our new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, who founded the Sepang circuit and initially brought Formula One [here], is back in the government.
Coulthard breaks drought
“He did express his desire that one day F1 will return but we maintain that we would like to live life without Formula One for at least five years from our last race in 2017. We shall wait and evaluate the situation.
“What I’ve heard is the last two years the situation has changed and I’m sure in the next two or three years Formula One will continue to evolve and get better in terms of racing.
“If they are pushing more for street races than circuit racing then we may want it back but they could not want us. We just have to wait and see how Formula One evolves and develops in the next couple of years but yes 2022 would be the latest.
“We did discuss in the past Supercars being a support race for F1. We discussed it but the reception from Formula One then was negative.
“But we’re open again if the Supercars come as one of the attractions to race together, I think it is doable, very doable. We would not discount that possibility, it could happen.”
Mercedes dominated the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix and took their third one-two of the season to strengthen their position at the top of the championship and put further pressure on Ferrari to keep up.
Valtteri Bottas was on pole as he and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row but they quickly switched places going into the first corner in Shanghai.
From there on out, as Ferrari battled with team orders behind them, which only served to allow Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to get involved in the battle, the Mercedes duo were in clear air.
That was, until Red Bull attempted to undercut Ferrari and, as a result, Ferrari’s reaction to a second pit stop threatened to undercut Mercedes.
And then that was when the magic happened, when Mercedes showed their superiority which has made them so formidable in the hybrid era.
Afraid that pitting Hamilton first, who was leading the race by around three seconds, would put Bottas at risk from Sebastian Vettel on fresh tyres, and that pitting Bottas first would potentially see him overtake Hamilton, they were left with one option.
In a bid to let their drivers earn their own points at the start of the season, rather than meddle with the order, Mercedes tried a risky double stack, which would potentially leave Bottas waiting behind Hamilton in the pits if there was any sort of delay.
“I was very concerned,” said Bottas. “You know you’re going to lose time being the car behind, but it was due to the start that I was in that position.
“I was questioning the team – if I could stop later, or carry on without stopping – but there was too big a risk in terms of tyre life, if we can make it or not.
“I was questioning because if I could do something different, other than stopping behind Lewis, that was going to be my only chance to win the race. I knew if we were [both] coming in, that’s going to be pretty much it unless something crazy happens.
“But I’m glad the stop went well. I lost some time, but minimal, so the team did a good job on that. And now, seeing all the data just briefly, from the team’s point of view I think it was definitely the right thing to do, to make sure we were going to be one-two.”
The two stops were done to perfection and, in an eye-watering time of 6.2 seconds, both cars were back on track and still running in P1 and P2.
“It was an interesting situation because it was clear that Valtteri was under pressure from Sebastian,” team principal Toto Wolff said.
“So if Sebastian would have stopped he would have undercut Valtteri, so the logical choice is to stop Valtteri first. But if you would have stopped Valtteri, then he would have undercut Lewis.
“So we didn’t want to interfere with the order, so that’s why we decided to stack. We knew we just about had the gap to stack them properly and gave the commitment to Valtteri that we wouldn’t lose him any time, and it was really impressive how the guys did it.”
Ferrari simply didn’t have the pace to challenge Mercedes at the Chinese GP, whether they attacked, defended, swapped or blocked. And with Red Bull not fulfilling all of their potential at the moment this created a rather ordinary race upfront.
As the famous five red lights extinguished Lewis Hamilton’s first job in the GP, from second on the grid, was to balance the throttle pedal and clutch lever for the best launch with minimal wheelspin. He did this to great effect and the race was effectively his in the first few hundred meters.
Valtteri Bottas, from pole position, had some wheelspin as he crossed a white painted line in front of his grind slot and was probably lucky to remain in second by the exit of the T1/2/3/4 complex.
Behind him Sebastian Vettel had the better start but in avoidance of the struggling Mercedes lost out to his teammate Charles Leclerc, who sliced up the inside to seize third place.
This would set the scene for some uncomfortable decisions on the Ferrari pitwall.
Behind, the pack were largely well behaved until the Turn Six hairpin when Danny Kvyat corrected a slide to an extent into the path of Carlos Sainz’s McLaren, which in turn was heading into a wedge formed by his teammate Lando Norris returning to the race track.
Kvyat has a reputation which may have harmed him here.
He did marginally lose control of his car which walked him towards Sainz, and it did skittle both McLarens, but a drive-through penalty was harsh. It was after all the opening lap with other mitigating circumstances, and you could argue this one either way for a good while.
I believe a five or 10-second penalty at his pit stop might have been more reasonable. A 21-second drive-through at the beginning of the race putting you at the back of the pack is doubly painful.
The big question here is whether the third-party consequences and resulting car damage of an error should impact on the scale of the penalty? That’s luck of the draw and there’s a more general ‘let them race and sort it out amongst themselves’ these days, but as I’ve said many times you have to have rules and a referee in all sports.
Which, of course, involves human interpretation and actions, and the stewards have a lot of information and precedents to consider.
A general perception was that Vettel and his set up was the faster Ferrari in Shanghai, and so when he ended up in the slipstream of Leclerc in the sister car, with the Mercs pulling away upfront, the team had to do something about it.
They ordered Leclerc to let him through which of course is humiliating and frustrating for the young Monegasque, and especially galling after car reliability robbed him of a glorious victory two weeks earlier. They mustn’t harm his credibility and paint him as a support act, that’s damaging psychologically and reputation wise, and isn’t easy to reverse.
If you were tuned into my commentary you’d know that I’d already suggested this may happen and I’d have done the same thing from how it all appeared. But, once past, Vettel didn’t have any more pace and proceeded to regularly lock his tyres up under braking.
That’s when it became clear that the Ferraris were staying in touch with each other only through the DRS rear wing available to the following car, and the switch only served to put Leclerc towards the clutches of the watching Max Verstappen.
Ferrari have been remarkably open and frank about how they will handle team orders this season, with a bias towards the more experienced Vettel if required. This was presumably to avoid some of the mistakes and dramas in recent years which created significant criticism and pressure.
But it won’t diffuse or solve the problem because Leclerc is every bit the match for Vettel and he’s his own man despite his tender years.
A later Leclerc radio call ended in a slightly sarcastic ‘if you’re interested to know…’. I fully expect he’d still rather be a frustrated Ferrari driver than a happy Sauber/Alfa Romeo driver, but this will come to a head at Ferrari sooner than later and will become acrimonious.
Leclerc’s ‘no man’s land’ first pit stop consigned him to fifth place behind Verstappen.
Red Bull have an engine upgrade for Baku and a major aero upgrade for Barcelona, which can’t come soon enough. Pierre Gasly had a better day in sixth in his Red Bull with a late fastest lap championship point for both driver and team, but he was still a long way behind Verstappen which leaves the team with one hand tied behind their backs tactically. They’ll only tolerate that so long, which leaves Pierre with some fast tracking to do.
Daniel Ricciardo had his best weekend yet for Renault in seventh, but to balance that, with no safety car to close the pack at any point (there was a short virtual safety car), he finished a lap behind and with Sergio Perez on his tail. With Nico Hulkenberg in the sister Renault once again having reliability issues, and both McLaren-Renaults in the wars, this was a Chinese GP to largely forget.
Alex Albon had a great race for Toro Rosso from the pit lane for the final championship point in 10th. His pit lane start was self inflicted after his heavy practice crash, which he had the good sense to take all the blame for. But he’s making quite an impression and was voted driver of the day.
The three new youngsters Norris, Russell and Albon intrigue me.
They appear to be well educated, well spoken, polite, intelligent young men who get the job done. They are supremely well prepared for life in F1, but I guess I’m just more used to hardened and edgy street fighters as rivals, although these guys are not shy of high-speed combat.
I thought Kimi Raikkonen did a great job for Alfa Romeo too, with plenty of overtakes and continuing his Peter Pan approach to being comfortably the oldest driver in F1. Impressive.
We collectively made quite a song and dance around the world about the 1000th championship race, but in many ways it was a pity it fell in China and not Europe. We only had a sole Graham Hill Lotus 49 beautifully driven by Damon Hill, and a small collection of show cars, overalls and helmets in the vast paddock. It would have been nice to see a lot more classic F1 cars and ex-drivers on track. They exist and they run.
Presumably the 2000th F1 race will be contested by levitating solar powered creations crafted from unobtanium and controlled by 12-year-olds residing on Mars. But meanwhile I’d appreciate it if someone could take the fight to Mercedes in a good old-fashioned analogue way.
After three 1-2s and comfortably leading both championships, their double-stack pitstop to cover off any safety car risk towards the end of the race simply underlined their control and confidence.
Can anyone dent that?
This article was taken from Sky Sports with permission.