Max Verstappen says the Virtual Safety Car period saw him lose vital temperature and grip with his medium tyres and halted his late race charge for a podium place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

After falling behind Racing Point’s Sergio Perez on the opening lap, Verstappen regained fourth place powering past the Mexican inside the opening handful of laps but the hold up put him on the backfoot chasing the podium spots.

But once the Red Bull driver switched on to the medium tyres after his pit stop he began to make impressive inroads into the gap to Sebastian Vettel to give himself a shot at the podium, until a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 40 was triggered by his teammate Pierre Gasly who stopped with a suspected driveshaft failure.

After just under two laps running at low speeds, Verstappen felt he lose significant tyre temperature and by the restart couldn’t rediscover his earlier pace meaning his pursuit of Vettel and the rostrum was cut short in Baku.

“I lost a bit of time behind Perez [at the start], you don’t want to risk it on Lap 1 to have a little touch,” Verstappen reflected. “Afterwards the pace we showed on the mediums was good.

“Over that stint until the VSC we were catching like seven or eight seconds, so that is very promising. After the VSC we just didn’t have the grip and tyre temperature.

“Around here that is key so I couldn’t push anymore. We were just sliding around and decided to bring it home.”

Verstappen also dismissed any brake worries reported over his team radio during the race and felt his Red Bull ran without issue with its upgraded Honda power unit.

“I don’t know where that brake concern comes from because they told me just to follow the dash, so I didn’t have a brake problem at all. So that’s good,” he said.

Verstappen’s third consecutive fourth place finish sees him drop down one spot to fourth place in the F1 drivers’ world championship – just one point behind Vettel but four points ahead of Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari.

 

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