Max Verstappen's delight at 'special' Shanghai podium

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium
Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium

Max Verstappen admitted he never expected to finish on the podium after a disastrous qualifying session for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Racing teenager started 16th on the grid after engine software problems saw him unable to get out of Q1 on Saturday. But unstable weather conditions at the start of Sunday's race saw the Dutchman pass nine cars on the opening lap.

Verstappen with his team

Verstappen with his team

While he was forced to stop earlier than the rest of the field as his super-soft tyres went off, Verstappen held off team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages to take a brilliant third place.

“That was a very special race," Verstappen said afterwards. "When I woke up this morning I never expected to be on the podium.

"It was a very good first lap, I passed nine cars I think which is very positive. The conditions really helped me get past the cars as quick as I could, that was important as I knew it would only dry up and get tougher to pass.

"I always enjoy driving in the wet so I made the most of the fun conditions early on. I think in the first eleven laps I got up to seventh place which set me up for a strong finish.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen battled early in the race, and then again in the closing stages

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen battled early in the race, and then again in the closing stages

"The battle with Daniel at the end was hard as my car was not fun to defend in. I’m glad we hung on and obviously it was a great race to watch and for the team. I think on pure pace in the dry we are still a bit slow for a podium but all things considered today we definitely maxed it out.”

Ricciardo meanwhile admitted he was disappointed not to be on the podium, with third place within touching distance at the end.

The Australian added: "I have mixed emotions, it’s obviously disappointing to miss out on the podium as it was so close today but as a team it’s a good result to finish third and fourth. I lost a lot of time in the first stint as I struggled to keep my front tyres alive and that pretty much put us out of a podium position.

"Towards the end of the race I could see that Max was struggling with his tyres but as soon as I got close to him I also began to struggle with mine. The team let us race but even though I was in the DRS zone I was not really close enough to pull off a convincing move.

"I had a look but the inside lines were still quite slippery into the hairpin and I was honestly never really close enough to make a move stick.

“As a team we should be pleased with the result and we learnt a lot today but we still have some work to do to close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.”