Max Verstappen has joked his oversteer moment following the red flag period in the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a “secret tyre warming” tactic as it nearly cost him the lead of the race.

The race was halted after Valtteri Bottas and George Russell’s collided on the start-finish straight, leaving debris across the circuit.

Once the race resumed, Verstappen led the pack under the Safety Car but he briefly lost control of his Red Bull at the penultimate corner.

 

Thankfully for Verstappen, Charles Leclerc - who was right behind him in second - didn’t overtake him.

The Dutchman went onto take a comfortable first win of the season, over 20 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton.

Reflecting on how his race went at Imola, Verstappen said: “It’s never easy a race like this, quite stressful out there to make the right calls.

“The key I think was to get that good launch which was also a bit of a surprise to me that after last year where we always struggled in the wet I think over the winter and the beginning of the year we’ve definitely made some improvements with that and today that was very good.

“Then after that, to make the right calls from intermediates to slicks was not easy because I saw a few guys ahead of me with slick tyres but they were struggling a lot. Even on the intermediates, they were finished so to keep on going was difficult, a lot of sliding around and if you would go a few centimetres offline you could lose the car.

“Not easy out there but once we put on the slicks it was all fine. Of course, we had the red flag with so much debris into Turn 2. Basically, the advantage was gone. Then I had my moment at the restart. It was a big one, it was some secret tyre warming going on. After that, it was fine.”

The key to Verstappen’s win was his impressive start from third on the grid.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton into the opening sequence of corners, forcing the reigning world champion over the sausage kerbs.

“I had a good launch, I was just getting speed, speed, speed but then you go to Turn 2, it’s a bit difficult to judge your braking point, you have cold tyres, it’s easy to outbreak yourself as this track with all the gravel around and stuff, it’s easy to damage your car,” Verstappen added.

“We went into Turn 2 side-by-side. It’s difficult to expect grip in the first lap. I also ended up a bit wider than I wanted and then Lewis was also there but at one point these yellow sausages were there, then I saw Lewis had to go over them.”