A defiant Max Verstappen all but accused his team of letting him down at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a driveshaft issue forcing him to start the race from P15 on the grid, from where he went on to finish second behind teammate Sergio Perez.
The World Champion was his usual self, ready to rumble all weekend at the wickedly fast and tricky venue, and looking a sure bet for pole position in Jeddah on Saturday, until fate decided otherwise and relegated him into the back end of the midpack
This after he whacked a curb so hard it might have snapped the driveshaft, who knows? But it was a hard smack that might have been avoided considering the dominance of the Red Bull RB19.
Nevertheless, a day later Verstappen made short work of getting to second place in the race from 15th on the grid – 25 laps out of the 50 to be precise – but much to his chagrin he could not reel in his teammate, and eventual race winner Perez, who drove the race of his life on Sunday to keep Max at bay.
The Dutch ace is quoted on his website: “We have to do better as a team. We should not have these problems. Otherwise, it would have been a very different race for me. We were able to limit the damage but I should’ve won here.”
As for his charge through the ultra-tight mid-pack, Verstappen said: “It was not very easy to get through the field. To follow a car through the first sector was very difficult, a lot of sliding around. But once I cleared them one by one, we got into a good rhythm.
“We were helped by the safety car, which made it easier to get into second position. Very happy to be here on the podium.”
Max: I was able to close the gap a bit, but could not attack
Late in the race, during his relentless but ultimately fruitless pursuit of Perez, Verstappen reported another driveshaft issue, similar to what he experienced a day earlier in qualifying.
But it was a false alarm, as the Red Bulls traded fastest laps in their cat and mouse duel, way at the front of the field; Verstappen added: “I was able to close the gap a bit, but could not attack. There was a lot of vibration, and the balance did not feel right.
“Until the finish, but I was in second position, and we had a big gap behind, we decided to call it a day and settle for second, which was a very good recovery,” he added.
Late in the race, despite warnings not to go for the fastest lap, Verstappen threw caution to the wind to claim it, and thus the extra point, meaning F1 heads to Melbourne, for Round 3, with Max top of the 2023 drivers’ standings on 44 points, a solitary point ahead of Perez.
“I had a bad day yesterday, so when in P2, I wanted that extra point. I gave it a go at the end and luckily it worked out,” explained Verstappen after claiming his 22nd F1 fastest lap and celebrating his 79th Grand Prix podium.