Rain before the race meant the formation laps were taking place in wet conditions, and Max went off at Turn 12 on intermediate tyres, damaging his left front suspension and breaking his front wing. Red Bull got to work instantly on the grid and pulled off an epic display as the team managed to make the necessary repairs and get the wheels back on the car with just 30 seconds to spare.
When the lights went out, Max repaid his mechanics with a stunning first lap to go from seventh on the grid to run third, excellently passing the Ferraris and closing in on Lance Stroll ahead. The track conditions were improving all the time and Daniil made the brave call with Scuderia AlphaTauri to pit at the end of the first lap for slick tyres, with Alex and Pierre following suit on lap three and then Max doing the same on lap four to jump Stroll into second place.
Alex had also made a strong start to move up to ninth place from 13th on the grid, and he overtook Sebastian Vettel on lap 11 before getting Charles Leclerc seven laps later to rise to seventh. Daniil pit for a set of hard tyres just as Alex was passing Leclerc, but unfortunately Pierre’s race had ended a few laps earlier when he came into the pits and retired due to a gearbox issue. Alex pit for hard tyres on lap 34 and was able to run to the end, having to recover from a slow pit stop and chasing down Vettel once again. With five laps remaining he got ahead at Turn 2 and secured a valuable fifth place.
While Alex did the hunting, Max was being closed down by Valtteri Bottas on a different strategy in the second part of the race after pitting for hards two laps after his team-mate. Max judged his pace perfectly though and held on by 0.7s to take his second consecutive podium after such a spectacular start to the race. On a track that is known to be difficult for overtaking, Daniil fought his way up to 12th place and managed his tyres excellently to complete 52 laps on a set of the hard compound, ending up less than five seconds behind Leclerc but unfortunately not having any points to show for a battling drive.
Toyoharu Tanabe, Technical Director, Honda Racing F1:
“After what has been a difficult weekend up until today, given how qualifying went and our general level of competitiveness, to get on the podium with Max in second place and with Alex finishing fifth, is a good result that we can be happy with. After Max went off on the formation lap, his mechanics did an amazing job to repair the car on the grid and keep him in the race. After that, he had a brilliant start, which combined with a great strategy ended with second place. We were able to get the very most out of the PU today in performance terms, which contributed to his great result. Alex raced well to go from 13th on the grid to fifth. Pierre also showed good pace this weekend, despite various problems, so it was a shame he had to retire with a gearbox problem. Daniil had a decent pace but lost places after his pit stop, otherwise he could have been in the points, but at least we have all his data to work with as he finished the race. After this very tough start to the season with three races in as many weekends, we now have a short break and a free weekend. This will give us a bit of time to work on analysing all our data in Sakura and Milton Keynes, to try and find further performance gains. Even though the two races at Silverstone will not be easy for us, we will take the momentum from today’s strong showing to keep working in the hope of getting even better results.”
Max Verstappen, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, 2nd:
“This podium is definitely dedicated to my mechanics. I thought the race was over before it had even started. I braked, locked a wheel, came off the brakes and tried to brake again but went straight on into the wall on the out lap. I couldn’t believe it but I managed to reverse out of the wall and get to the grid. As a Team we never give up and the mechanics did an incredible job to fix the car so quickly, I don’t think anyone could actually believe they managed it but they all stayed very calm. The track was still pretty greasy but I had a good start. You cannot plan going into Turn 1 but I saw there was a traffic jam on the inside so I thought I would go around the outside where I knew there was grip in the wet and it worked. The race could have been very different if I was stuck in seventh place for a few laps that’s for sure. We then made all the right strategy calls and I just had to manage my tyres, be as consistent as possible and manage the backmarkers. To be second here between the two dominant Mercedes cars is an unbelievable result and we did not expect it yesterday after qualifying and such a difficult weekend. We want to try to close the gap to Mercedes, they are really dominant at the moment so it will be very hard to beat them but we won’t stop trying.”
Alex Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, 5th:
“It was a good race and I had a lot of fun with my elbows out. If you had told me we’d be P5 after yesterday I would have jumped at it. Today was never going to be easy starting from P13 but we had a good start and we made our way through the field. It’s not easy to overtake at this circuit so we had to do some big moves to get past people. Every move you do is always on the limit here but it worked out for us and I enjoy the battles as it’s nice to put on a show. When we fight we tend to come out on top and the car is good on the brakes so it’s nice to make these moves. We lost quite a lot of time in traffic today behind the Ferraris otherwise I think we would have been closer but the car was really good and when we were in clean air we were fast and very competitive. I’m happy with the result and it’s good points for the Team after such a tricky day yesterday so I think we have to be thankful. Today is a bit of a surprise as to why our race pace is so much better than our quali pace, so we need to understand that, but it’s positive and means some things on the car are working.”
Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, 12th:
“I was happy with the race pace today, I overtook some cars already on lap one and I made a very good call to go on slicks at the right time. After the pit stops I ended up behind cars I had already overtaken on the first laps. I need to review the race to understand it better, because I felt there was a chance of finishing in the points today and to end up only P12 is not really satisfying. I’m still working on understanding the car with my engineers and we learnt a lot during the last three races. Every lap is important and we’ll try different solutions to suit the car a little bit more to my driving style in Silverstone.”
Pierre Gasly, Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, DNF:
“It was a very difficult weekend for us. For some reason we struggled the whole time, with a few issues here and there. Today we had a drivetrain issue and since the beginning of the race I had problems with gear shifts which we tried to fix on track but we couldn’t, so we just had to retire the car. It’s a big shame, but we were just unlucky this weekend. Now we have a few days to prepare for Silverstone and I hope to have a better weekend there.”