Max Verstappen was left to reflect on what might have been at the Russian Grand Prix as a mid-race mechanical problem denied him a likely top six finish.
The Dutchman made the most of the first lap chaos to gain a handful of positions – despite almost being collected by the spinning Sebastian Vettel – and says he was running comfortably in sixth place waiting to capitalise on any problems amongst the cars ahead of him, but ultimately had to park his Toro Rosso with a suspected power unit failure.
“I was cruising around, as the guys behind me were much slower,” Verstappen claimed, “With two fingers in my nose, I was driving around and I was almost one second a lap quicker [than Alonso].
“I tried to follow the guys in front of me, but they were slightly faster than me. However, I think the Williams were struggling with their tyres a bit in the end - you could see that trend already happening on the supersofts - so I was just saving my fuel to attack at the end of the race. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the end of the race...”
The teenager remained uncertain of the cause of his retirement prior to the team recovering the car, but was adamant that Toro Rosso wouldn't have gone home empty-handed had he been able to keep running. Team-mate Carlos Sainz finished twelfth after taking a ten-second time penalty and losing places to Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages of the 53-lap race.
“I think there was something [wrong] with the power unit, because you could see smoke coming out, but we don't know the exact issue yet,” Verstappen confirmed, “We'll find out when the car comes back, but it's a shame because we could have scored a lot of points.
“Something suddenly started shaking and there was no power any more, so the team asked me to stop the car on track. The laps before, I was still going fine so I never thought about that, I was just managing everything and then, suddenly, it kicked in. It's a shame...”
Verstappen's race, however, could have been a lot different – and a lot shorter – had he been a few metres of his chosen line as the pack filed through turns two and three...
“I was very lucky, as I almost got caught by Vettel,” he confirmed, “It seemed that all the guys in front of me tried to brake so late that they all locked up and touched each other. I had the right line out of the corner. got a good exit and chose the outside line and then, honestly, I don't know what happened on the inside.
“I think Vettel got a puncture, he braked and Kvyat smashed into the back of him and Vettel spun. All the guys behind him were a bit like 'wow, what's happening here' and lost momentum, and I just went around the outside...”