Max Verstappen collected another podium for 2020 with a 3rd place finish at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao.
At F1’s first race in Portugal since 1996, and the race that saw Lewis Hamilton register his record-breaking 92nd Formula One win, the Dutchman had a scruffy first lap.
After initially getting past Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes, Verstappen ran wide, made contact with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez that spun the Mexican round, ran wide on further corners and fell behind the fast starting McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
But as the race continued, Verstappen bounced back to finish 3rd, and continue his record of picking up a podium in every race he has finished in 2020 so far. It was 9th podium of 2020, and a 40th in F1 overall.
His team-mate Alex Albon, by contrast, had another tough afternoon, finishing 12th and a lap behind Verstappen after qualifying sixth, adding further pressure to the Brit-Thai driver after Red Bull’s bosses announced yesterday that he needed good performances at Portimao and Imola to secure his 2021 seat.
Albon lost places at the start, and by the end was forced into a second stop, which saw him finish 12th, several seconds behind Sebastian Vettel, who picked up the final position in the points in 10th.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen said third was in line with where they expected to be overall, even if he admitted struggling on the opening lap.
He said, “Overall I’m happy with third and I think it’s where we expected to be. I tried everything I could and the beginning was of course not so easy with a little bit of rain and low grip, which meant the tyre temperatures were very low for the first few laps. I had a little touch with Sergio but luckily I had no damage and then it started raining a little bit so I just tried to keep the car on the track and stay out of trouble. I don’t know how but the McLarens had a lot of grip on the opening lap so once the rain had passed I overtook them to get back into P3 and then focused on my own race.
“For some reason the soft tyre wasn’t working so well today but once we pitted and went onto the medium tyres we had good pace and it was quite ok. Of course by then already the gap to Mercedes was so big so we couldn’t really do anything but we can still be happy with another podium. I am not sure what the time of the pit stop was but it felt very fast today, so I think the mechanics all deserve a beer tonight for being the best in the paddock.”
Albon admitted disappointment with his afternoon, lamenting the fact he was unable to fully drive to the car’s potential.
He said, “It was a tough race and we struggled for grip right from the beginning. I think the car was fast but we couldn’t show our true pace whilst we were stuck in traffic. I didn’t get off the line very well and for the first three laps we struggled with tyre temperatures, so we kept locking up the fronts. Once the tyres were hot, the car was good but recently we’ve been struggling to switch the tyres on and that just sent us backwards into traffic.
“Once you get caught in a DRS train it makes it very hard to overtake. We tried to react by doing something different with a two stop strategy but looking back maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do. Now we will look at what we can learn from today’s race and this weekend as a whole and make sure we put in a good performance in Imola.”