Max Verstappen says there were no team orders at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix and that he was free to battle with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo for the win right to the chequered flag.
Verstappen eventually finished 2.4sec behind the sister car, but got to within 1.1secs with only a handful of laps to, before eventually dropping back and having to settle for the runners-up spot.
Asked if he was allowed to fight right to the finish, the Dutchman replied: “Yeah, for sure. The team said we were free to race – but of course in a clean way and I think that's what we did.”
“I was pushing,” he added. “[But] also, when you get very close it overheats the tyres and I was already on older tyres, so it was just very difficult to get into the DRS.
“And like I said, if you are on older tyres, before with the hard tyres I had a few laps advantage so you can do a few laps within a second but if you are on older tyres, to try to get within a second is very hard.”
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Verstappen and Ricciardo had a great battle and just prior to Lewis Hamilton's retirement on lap 41 were side-by-side, with the Dutchman making the most of an alternative strategy to put the Australian under pressure.
“I think it's always fun when you give each other enough space. We were not trying to squeeze each other or anything. That's great racing at high speed,” Verstappen continued.
“And then into Turn Seven, we tried to brake as late as we could – but at one point I decided to give up because I was a bit in the tighter line so, in case you clip the kerb, you bounce to the left and we both have nothing.
“We had a good fight, a fair fight, and I think it shows a respect between us. And even after that little fight it will looked like it was going to happen – but then unfortunately the virtual safety car came out again [after Hamilton's engine went].
“So we pitted again. I had to go on used soft, I think Daniel had new ones but still it was a great battle, we were pushing each other in the heat.
“Normally you can cruise a bit at the end of the race, or at least it's a bit less physical but until the last lap we were pushing really hard.”
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Pressed on when he realised he'd have to settle for P2, Verstappen added: “I think four or five laps from the end. It's just very hard – like I said before – to get within one second. It's a bit like you're playing a cat and mouse game so if the car behind you... It's a bit like how I did in Barcelona, you know? If the car's coming close to you, you just play with it, you keep them under control, you let them slide a bit more and then as soon as you see the car behind you is struggling a bit more, you can push a bit more yourself. I think that's what Daniel was doing.
“But it's a great result for the team, [and we] scored a lot of points. The car was working all weekend, I think it showed already on Friday in the long run that it was working really well. I think we can be really pleased with this.”
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