Verstappen fightback too late after ‘playing with tools’

A fightback from Max Verstappen in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix came too late to see him overhaul Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez

A fightback from Max Verstappen in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix came too late to see him overhaul Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez

Max Verstappen has conceded his Azerbaijan Grand Prix came too late to pressure Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez for the victory after conceding to “playing around with the tools” inside his RB19.

Verstappen was forced to settle for second place behind Perez who spearheaded a one-two, the 25th in the team’s F1 history.

The reigning F1 champion was initially compromised by an early safety car after Nyck de Vries broke the wishbone on his AlphaTauri after clipping a wall, allowing Perez to jump him for the lead once it was deployed.

It is arguable whether Verstappen would have had the pace to hold off Perez in any case as the Mexican again triumphed around a street circuit. All five of his wins with Red Bull have been at such tracks.

The Dutch driver was unable to get within Perez’s DRS to launch an attack before dropping to almost four seconds off the pace at one stage.

Eventually, Verstappen managed to drag himself closer again to Perez, only to finish two seconds adrift at the chequered flag.

“The safety car was a bit unlucky, then I had to push again,” said Verstappen. “I tried to stay very close, to try and get into the DRS.

“I think the tyres were overheating a bit because of that, trying to follow, but also the balance. I was struggling to be really consistent.

“It was just very difficult to have a good balance, entry to mid-corner, and a lot of the lap time here is about entry to mid-corner, to get that right, and I was just struggling with oversteer then understeer.

“So the whole race, I was just trying a lot of things on my steering wheel, playing around with the tools a little bit, to try and get a bit of a better feeling, balance in the car.

“I actually think that I found a good compromise towards the end of the race because I think my last 10 laps were a lot stronger, and I felt a lot happier with the car, how everything was behaving, but (it was) just a little bit too late.”

Verstappen surpasses Senna haul

In finishing runner-up, Verstappen scored the 81st podium of his F1 career, surpassing the late Ayrton Senna’s haul of 80.

Yet Verstappen felt his weekend, in general, was “a bit messy”, although given his gripes over the format, with the additional qualifying ahead of the sprint, his end result was almost damage limitation.

“All in all, I can be quite pleased with second,” said Verstappen.

“Of course, you always want to win, right? But sometimes you need these kinds of weekends to learn and have a better understanding of the car, of what the car needs to go faster.

“Sometimes on a street circuit like this, it really comes out. Sometimes these kinds of things might get a bit masked on a normal track because of downforce and just the general behaviour of a car.

“So, maybe this was a good day, you know, to go forward.”

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