Max Verstappen says he is struggling to believe he is an F1 race winner as he caused one of the biggest upsets in F1 history by claiming victory in the Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull Racing debut.
Having courted intense media scrutiny in the run up to the race having been promoted to the Red Bull Racing team from Toro Rosso, Verstappen shrugged off the anticipated pressure to qualify a career-best fourth before holding down second from the opening lap when the Mercedes' ahead collided.
Following Daniel Ricciardo for the majority of the race, when his team-mate was effectively removed from victory contention as Red Bull erroneously mirrored Sebastian Vettel's three-stop strategy, the two-stopping Verstappen inherited the lead.
Even so, though fortuitous in the circumstances that eliminated Mercedes and Ricciardo from the running, Verstappen would still be forced to make his tyres last in the final stint whilst resisting the attentions of the vastly more experienced Kimi Raikkonen.
Nevertheless, he soaked up the pressure to cross the line the winner, smashing the record for being the youngest winner of an F1 race aged just 18 years and 227 days. Describing the win as 'amazing' and a 'very big surprise', he says he is determined to savour the moment.
“It's amazing,” he said. “This race felt like an endurance race to me, especially in the last five laps. I couldn't believe that I was leading the race and today just everything went well and I could hold onto the tyres and I think that we did the best strategy possible. Unbelievable -- can't believe it.
“I think the first stint on the softs I could keep up quite well after the two Mercedes cars crashed. I lost a bit of car there so we decided to pit and we went onto the medium tyre, the car felt great and from there on I was just managing my speed, my tyres and I was just managing everything.
“I think we did the best strategy possible, especially in the last stint I got quite a bit of pressure from Kimi [Raikkonen] behind and round here it is quite difficult to overtake so for me it was just a case of not making mistakes and no front locking so that's what I tried to do and it worked this feeling to be first, I was targeting a podium but then to win straight away is an amazing feeling.”
Describing the final laps as it became increasingly apparent he simply had to keep Raikkonen behind, Verstappen says he simply tried to focus on his own actions.
“I think the last lap I was getting a bit of cramp, I was getting excited, but yeah I couldn't believe it. I was looking up to the pit board, I saw my name and I started to watch the board and I was just thinking to myself 'don't look at it anymore and focus on the tyres and trying to bring it home' and that's what we did. A great feeling, I absolutely didn't expect this.”