Max Verstappen admitted following his charge from 19th to fifth in the Russian Grand Prix that he had a “close moment” on the opening lap that nearly saw him get pushed into the wall.
Verstappen moved into the lead after the cars ahead pitted, and stayed in front until his pit stop at the end of Lap 43. He returned to the track in fifth place, where he finished after Red Bull opted to save his engine and not push to catch Kimi Raikkonen in fourth place.
Verstappen said the fashion in which he took fifth place left him feeling happy – although it was not without a close moment at Turn 8 when he went wheel-to-wheel with the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin.
“Yeah, very pleased with it. The goal was always to be fifth, but the way in which we did it today, I think we can be very pleased with that,” Verstappen said after the race.
“It was a good launch, and then even while turning I had good traction. And I tried to follow a bit in the tow. There’s a lot of dust actually going on. You don’t really see it as much as in the car.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen on the inside [at Turn 2]. I stayed on the track, which is very important of course. [At Turn 3] you try to be in the middle because the wake of the car can sometimes be a bit tricky.
“Soon I have a very close moment, I’ll show you! Everything just went clean. Here I was thinking about getting by [Sirotkin], still not sure, and then you’ll see what happens here…
“So I’m going next, and then like… ooooh,” Verstappen said, with replays showing the Dutchman backing out of a move for fear of being squeezed into the wall by Sirotkin.
Verstappen was forced to start 19th as a result of an engine penalty, but said it was hard to say if Red Bull could have been in the fight with both Mercedes and Ferrari at the front of the pack had he not been demoted.
“It’s difficult to say, but I think because we were starting at the back, we could choose our tyres which gave us the best strategy,” Verstappen said.
“It’s a bit difficult to say if we’d have qualified fifth or sixth what we could have done.
“We would have been in the fight.”