After two consecutive races where he failed to finish, Max Verstappen was finally back on the podium where he belongs at the end of the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Having unexpectedly deprived Mercedes of a front row lock-out in yesterday's qualifying session, the Red Bull driver once again managed to split the two Silver Arrows contenders in the race.
While he lost out to Valtteri Bottas at the start, Lewis Hamilton's time penalties meant that Verstappen was soon back up into second place. where he finished after 53 laps.
The 22-year-old Dutch racer admitted that was a result as good as he could reasonably have been hoping for in the circumstances.
"To be able to split the Mercedes cars again, we have to be happy with that," he told Johnny Herbert after the finish. "I just tried to do my own race. I'm very happy with second, especially after two DNFs."
He explained that his poor start when the light went out was due to low grip levels that caused him to run wide at turn 2. He briefly dropped behind Daniel Ricciardo, but quickly took back the lost position over the first lap.
"There was very low grip on the inside of the grid at the start, which cost us a bit and the first few corners were pretty interesting, but we stayed calm and I quickly moved past Daniel again."
The race was briefly put behind a safety car after multiple accidents needed time for the marshals to clear up the track. Afterwards, Verstappen admitted that he had struggled on the medium compound tyres that he had started the race on.
"After the restart we were a little bit slower on the medium," he explained. "I was having a little bit of problem with the balance, but once we went onto that hard tyre we were a little bit more competitive."
"I struggled to follow the Mercedes cars on the medium tyre as I had a lot of oversteer but once I pitted on to the hard we were more competitive and I focused on my own race which we managed well.
"It’s good to be back on the podium and we can definitely be pleased to finish within eight seconds of Bottas on this track," he said. "We can be very happy with second place today, especially on a track where we know that we aren’t normally so competitive.
"It is a good amount of points for the Team and what we needed after the last few races."
Team principal Christian Horner said that it was a "fantastic result for Max today", adding: "Once again he extracted everything he could out of the car with a quality drive. Second was the optimum we could have hoped for."
Verstappen's team mate Alex Albon also just managed to finish in the points. He was tenth, despite a five place grid penalty for a new gearbox and a five second in-race penalty for not following the race director's instructions about how to return to the track after running wide.
“Today was a lot of work for one point and it wasn’t an easy race," sighed Albon. "It was difficult out there and a frustrating race. We were just in traffic the whole time without any clean air so we couldn’t put down any really good laps.
"After the gearbox penalty, today was about damage limitation and now I’m already focusing on Germany and having a cleaner weekend in two weeks’ time.”