Max Verstappen has secured his first podium of the 2018 Formula 1 campaign to bounce back from a tricky run of races but almost had his race wrecked by a freak accident with Lance Stroll.

The Red Bull driver got the jump on Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after the German’s pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car to take third place having almost suffered a heavy clash with Stroll of Williams.

During the Virtual Safety Car period Verstappen accelerated as Stroll appeared to brake as both drivers were working on getting heat into their tyres before the restart. Verstappen suffered front wing damage with bits of the endplate falling off his car but the Dutch driver was able to continue to take the final podium place.

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After a difficult start to 2018, stalled by a run of high-profile track clashes, Verstappen is relishing his first podium appearance since winning in Mexico last year and is eager to kick-start his campaign with the third place in Spain.

“It feels nice to be on the podium and nice to have a good clean race so yeah, hopefully we can work from here and score a lot of good results,” Verstappen said.

“Luckily it hit the outside bit of the wing, so I could continue and just have a little bit more understeer in the high speed corners but I managed to sort that with some tools so it was okay.

“I kept going and I felt a bit more understeer in turns 3 and 9 and may be braking a bit deeper into the hairpins. But it was not too bad to be honest, I just had some tools and all good. I don’t think it affected me too much.

“I was trying to be as close as I could to be on the positive side, but I was quite close behind Stroll. I felt that he braked a bit, I was really close, so I just clipped him.”

Verstappen’s podium in Spain sees him move up sixth in the F1 drivers’ standings – 15 points behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo – as Red Bull looks to recover from two double DNFs from the opening rounds.

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