Max Verstappen gave the Autodromo do Algarve a resounding thumbs down after finishing second in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver said he hoped that Formula 1 would not return to the venue.
After dominating the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix two weeks earlier, Verstappen was on the back foot, chasing the Mercedes duo. In the half a minute up the road when they crossed the finish line.
A day earlier, Verstappen’s body language after qualifying screeched “rage” (ask the cameraman who got a lens-palm in parc ferme) and the 23-year-old’s demeanour changed little after the race when he said of the track to Sky F1: “I hope we don’t come back.
“The whole weekend I didn’t enjoy because of the grip levels around here. I was just lacking a little bit of grip, a little bit of top speed, just not being able to put the pressure on Mercedes.
“You could clearly see on the hard tyres we were just a bit slower, some laps we could match Lewis and others it was just not possible,” explained Verstappen.
While Hamilton delivered another commanding performance, it is clear Mercedes found some horsepower since Imola and out it to good use this past weekend.
Furthermore, a mistake or two might have cost Verstappen a real shot at pole in Portimao, it’s worth noting Bottas’ fastest lap of 1:18.348 was an lot faster than Verstappen could muster legally, in other words without transgressing track limits.
Recalling the restart after Alfa Romeo wing debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap incident was cleared under safety car conditions, Verstappen reported: “Lewis got past Valtteri, but still I couldn’t pass and always the last two corners I lost out way too much.
“But then I think the team called me in at a good time and I had a good, strong out-lap because it was super-slippery out there. Even on the hard tyre, sometimes I could match Hamilton, sometimes not and then he was pulling away again.
“There was never really one point when I thought ‘okay, we have the pace to fight him’ so I just tried to stay in second,” explained Verstappen.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner summed up: “I don’t think Max has enjoyed this weekend, he’s been frustrated by the lack of grip and the conditions but that’s obviously the same for everybody.
“We can see that this championship is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. It’s so tight and it’s going to be all about marginal gains.
“Max drove the wheels off the car again today, snatching second from Mercedes and it’s super tight between him and Lewis,” added Horner.
While Verstappen griped about grip, Hamilton delivered a masterclass in tyre management, notching up F1 victory 97 and extending the one-point lead he had, before the race in Portugal, to an eight-point lead heading to Round 4 this weekend.
Looking ahead to the Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen said: “I’m looking forward to Barcelona, a track that has more normal grip levels and where I have good memories. I think we will also see a clearer picture of how teams have been progressing. It’s a long season ahead so a lot can happen.