Verstappen delights Dutch fans in Spa with 'special' podium

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14. - Belgian Grand Prix
© XPB 

There was no question about who the fans had come to see at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday, with the grandstands packed with orange in support of Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The Dutch supporters roared their approval when Verstappen was able to get the jump on both Force India cars in the early stages of the race, meaning that he clinched a top three finish despite starting from seventh place on the grid.

“After a bit of bad luck here in Spa in the past I’m very pleased to finally be coming away with a podium," Verstappen said after the race.

"It is always good to be on the podium but being on it here in Spa with so many Dutch fans is really special. On the last lap I was able to take in the orange crowd and enjoy it!"

Key to his success in the Belgian Grand Prix was not getting caught up in the accident at La Source at the start of the race - unlike his team mate Daniel Ricciardo, whose day was ruined with rear wing damage.

"The start was somewhat chaotic," Verstappen admitted. "Luckily I was on the inside and stayed out of trouble.

"There was a bit of first lap chaos to contend with but we made it through cleanly and managed to settle into a good pace right away."

He also got past the Haas of Romain Grosjean before the safety car was scrambled. And once the race restarted he made quick work of both Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez as well.

"I managed to pass Grosjean up the hill and concentrate on chasing the Force Indias," he said.

"I knew I would have to be patient and in the end I got close enough. I was surprised by their pace, I thought with DRS I would be able to get by easily but they were very strong. This made it a bit more enjoyable to try and pass.

"After I had cleared Pérez, I was able to run my own race."

Unfortunately he wasn't able to match the pace of the two race leaders ahead of him on the track. The lack of any chance of making up more positions made for a lonely afternoon.

"It was quite a lonely race," he acknowledged. "It was good to push the car and learn from it but there wasn’t a lot more action for me.

"Unfortunately we are too slow on this track. That is something we cannot change. [So] we achieved the maximum result possible today."

It left Verstappen hoping for some rain to mix things up, but for once the Ardennes failed to deliver so much as a brief shower.

"I had nobody behind and ahead of me, so that would have made it even more exciting," he said. “Unfortunately the rain never came."

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB14.

There was certainly no disappointment in the outcome as far as Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was concerned.

"Max just drove a great grand prix today,," he said. "Obviously he lost touch with the leaders in the course of making those passing moves, and certainly in the first half of the race we didn’t quite have the pace to keep in touch.

"So in reality quite a lonely race for Max, but fantastic for him to achieve a podium in what is effectively his home Grand Prix in front of such an enormous crowd here in Spa."

It wasn't such a great day for Ricciardo. After dropping two laps while his car was repaired, the Australian eventually retired from the race on lap 28.

"For Daniel it was a great shame he got caught up in someone else’s accident at the first corner," noted Horner. "The damage to the front and rear of Daniel’s car was significant.

"The mechanics did a wonderful job in getting the car turned around. But unfortunately having lost two laps to the lead car, and with engine mileage at a premium, we had to make the decision to retire the car."

"Just one of those Sundays I guess," said Ricciardo. "A lot of people would love my bad days! There you go, perspective. We will try again in Italy."

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