Max Verstappen delights in ‘unexpected’ victory as Valtteri Bottas accuses Mercedes of getting caught ‘sleeping’

Mercedes driver was unimpressed after dropping from pole position to third as Red Bull outsmarted their championship rivals to take their first win of the season at Silverstone

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Sunday 09 August 2020 16:45
F1: 70th Anniversary Grand Prix preview

Max Verstappen was delighted to see Red Bull take their first genuine opportunity to beat Mercedes after winning Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

The Dutchman benefitted from a qualifying masterstroke from Red Bull to ensure he started the race on the more durable hard tyres, which in the Silverstone heat proved the right tyre to be on, and converted the superior strategy to pass both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton and cruise towards the first non-Mercedes victory of the 2020 season.

In contrast, both Hamilton and Bottas struggled to manage their tyres as they constantly had to look after blisters on their Pirellis no matter which compound they tried, which meant that neither had the pace to challenge Verstappen once he hit the front.

At one stage early in the race, Verstappen was told to ease back from fighting with Hamilton in order to manage his tyres, which prompted a typically dismissive response from the young driver.

"This is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes, I'm not just sitting behind like a grandma!" Verstappen snapped back.

But once the jubilation of victory set in, Verstappen was able to explain why he was so determined to take the fight to the two Mercedes, having spent much of this season watching them power away into the distance.

"We so far (this season) didn't really have an opportunity in all the races to push them, and I could see we were pushing them," Verstappen said.

"So I tried to put the pressure on. They had to pit, and from then onwards, I could do my own pace, and basically built that advantage to the end."

Despite the ease with which Verstappen was able to claim victory, the triumph still came as a surprise at a track that was expected to play into the hands of Mercedes. Verstappen started the race at odds as long as 12/1 to emerge victorious, such was Red Bull’s underdog status, but that only went to make the win even sweeter for Verstappen.

"I didn't see it coming," he added. "But you after the first stint, it seemed like we were really good on tyres. Of course that is a question mark, how Mercedes is going to go on the hard tyre.

Verstappen claimed his first victory of the season 

"We had a lot of pace in the car, I didn't really have a lot of tyre issues at all. We just kept pushing, and [it's] an incredible result of course to win here.

"We had a great day. I think everything worked out well, and we had the right strategy. Everything was running smoothly.

"I was incredibly happy to win."

Bottas led from pole but soon lost the lead to Verstappen

Hamilton was not too disappointed with second place, given at one stage he was running down in fourth with a handful of laps to go after making a late second pit stop. As far as damage limitation goes, Hamilton’s 30-point championship lead remains intact as the reigning champion heads for Barcelona next weekend, with a late overtake on Bottas securing a second-place finish and limiting the damage done.

"It was a massive challenge,” a relieved Hamilton said.

"Congrats to the Red Bull team and to Max. They didn't have the problems we had today.

"It was definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcode as we experienced - I was nervous the tyre was going to explode - but I am grateful I managed to progress and get through the race."

Bottas was not so relieved though, having lost two places from pole position and passed on the road by both Verstappen and Hamilton as he struggled on old tyres.

"Very frustrating starting from pole and finishing third is not ideal," Bottas said. "I think as a team we were sleeping at some point when Max managed to get ahead of us.

"Our strategy was far from ideal, so lots to learn from today.

Hamilton struggled to maintain the life of his tyres

He added: "I was trying and there was a chance to keep up with Max but as soon as I started to push too much at the end, the tyres just fell apart.

"Lots of blistering in the tyres for us today and you can see Red Bull had none so they clearly had an edge over there.”

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