Verstappen ninth in flawless race in Japan: “It was enjoyable”

Published on 27 September 2015 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen finished ninth in the Japanese Grand Prix. During a race, in which the Dutchman showcased his raw speed again, he scored two points for the world championship standings. Having started from seventeenth, Verstappen drove an immaculate race and managed to gain positions, advancing him forward. Lewis Hamilton claimed victory, having won 41 races he equals Ayrton Senna’s total score. His teammate, Nico Rosberg and Ferrari-driver Sebastian Vettel rounded up the podium.

“It was enjoyable. Especially when you start 17th on a track where it is not so easy to overtake and finish ninth. We did a good job again”, Max tells The overtake on Jenson Button, who saw Felipe Nasr (left) and Max (right) and getting pass him, really stood out. “I enjoyed this one. It reminded me of the overtake with Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, who both passed Ricardo Zonta in Spa-Francorchamps in 2000.” He was a backmarker, this was now for a position.

On overtaking his teammate, Max says: “I had the softer tyres, I was catching up a lot and wanted to go forward. We are teammates and were both in the points, as we need to score them, so we didn’t make it difficult for each other. I wanted to overtake him myself, like with the rest.”

Looking ahead to the Russian Grand Prix, Max says: “Sochi will be a bit more difficult. We were struggling here already on the straights and in Russia there will be even more. If you look at last year, Kvyat did a very good job. Hopefully, our car will be working well there.”

Verstappen has to start the race from seventeenth, due to a grid position penalty and an issue with the car during qualifying on Saturday. This forces the Dutchman to do what has impressed  everyone all season: his overtaking skills. When the lights go out, Hamilton and Rosberg battle it out for first in turn one. This causes the German to drop back to fourth. The first lap didn’t work out well for Perez, he goes wide in turn one after having gotten into turmoil with Carlos Sainz. Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo both get a punctured tyre and fall way back. As a result of the troubles at the front, Verstappen ends up thirteenth after the first lap.

In the fourth lap, Max has a spectacular moment in the race: he wants to overtake Felipe Nasr with the aid of his DRS-system. The Brazilian, on his turn, wants to overtake Jenson Button on the straight. The Englishman in his McLaren, gets sandwiched, entering turn one, between Nasr on the outside and Verstappen on the inside. Button loses two positions and the Dutchman gets stuck behind the Sauber of Nasr’s. A fight unfolds in which Max tells his engineer Xevi Pujolar that he is unable to pass the Sauber. The team decide to bring him in at the end of the ninth lap for a new set of the harder tyres. This strategy worked out well, when Nasr pits two laps later, he re-emerges behind of Verstappen on track.

The next obstacles for Max are called Daniil Kvyat and Fernando Alonso, both on eleventh and twelfth. The youngster is faster than both of the drivers in front of him, but is unable to get pass them due to the lack of engine power. In lap seventeen, Max ultimately tries it on the outside in turn 130R, when he suddenly starts gaining on the Russian in the Red Bull, but it’s a futile attempt.

As Kvyat pits in lap twenty, Max moves up one spot and is now allowed to try and take down the Spaniard in the McLaren. In no time, the youngster is on Alonso’s tail and once again it proves to be hard to get pass. Verstappen keeps the pressure on the Spaniard and his able to benefit from a mistake from Alonso in lap 26. At the end of the straight, the Toro Rosso-driver passes him on the outside and is in the points. The gap to his forerunner and teammate Carlos Sainz is 26 seconds. Max settles down for a catch up and immediately does a personal best.

Max temporarily moves up a spot when Sainz pits and damages his front wing entering the pit lane. Verstappen’s teammate hits a bollard, marking the entrance to the pit lane. Max pits for the second time in lap 30. This leaves him outside the points, in twelfth. The gap to the driver ahead, Kvyat, is six seconds. Again, with traffic ahead of him, Max pulls out a fastest lap; closing the gap to the Russian with 1.6 seconds per lap.

When Kvyat pits in lap 35 for his third stop, Max is trailing Sainz 8.7 seconds. The Dutchman, however, is faster than the Spaniard and quickly reduces the gap. With eleven laps to go, Verstappen his on his team mates tail. He makes little work of the Spaniard and without showing mercy, quickly overtakes him. He outbrakes Sainz in the Casio Chicane and immediately pulls a gap of 1.9 seconds. He is behind of Pastor Maldonado, who himself is in eighth, some eighteen seconds. That gap is a tall order for the youngster to close and Max finishes the race in ninth, eight places higher up than he started in. The two points gained for the world championship standings, bring his tally up to a total of 32 points. He drops one place in the standings, to twelfth, because Nico Hulkenberg finished in sixth.

Hamilton drives to victory with ease and with Nico Rosberg in second, Mercedes reinforces the status quo as they were not able to a lot Singapore. The Ferrari’s, in third and fourth, are still not up to speed with the Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas has been fighting for a podium finish, but ultimately had to settle for fifth. Lotus scored points again with Romain Grosjean and Maldonado in seventh and eighth. Sainz claimed the last point for Toro Rosso by finishing in tenth. Nasr is the only one to have not finished, just before the end of the race he drops out.

Suzuka - Japanese Grand Prix - 27 September 2015

 P Driver                 Team          Time 
 1 Lewis Hamilton     GBR Mercedes      1:28:06.508 
 2 Nico Rosberg       GER Mercedes      +18.964s 
 3 Sebastian Vettel   GER Ferrari       +20.850s 
 4 Kimi Raikkonen     FIN Ferrari       +33.768s 
 5 Valtteri Bottas    FIN Williams      +36.746s 
 6 Nico Hulkenberg    GER Force India   +55.559s 
 7 Romain Grosjean    FRA Lotus         +72.298s 
 8 Pastor Maldonado   VEN Lotus         +73.575s 
 9 Max Verstappen     NED Toro Rosso    +95.315s 
10 Carlos Sainz       ESP Toro Rosso    +1 lap 
11 Fernando Alonso    ESP McLaren       +1 lap 
12 Sergio Perez       MEX Force India   +1 lap 
13 Daniil Kvyat       RUS Red Bull      +1 lap 
14 Marcus Ericsson    SWE Sauber        +1 lap 
15 Daniel Ricciardo   AUS Red Bull      +1 lap 
16 Jenson Button      GBR McLaren       +1 lap 
17 Felipe Massa       BRA Williams      +2 laps 
18 Alexander Rossi    USA Marussia      +2 laps 
19 Will Stevens       GBR Marussia      +3 laps 
20 Felipe Nasr        BRA Sauber        DNF