Second was best Verstappen could hope for in Japan

Max Verstappen on the podium in Japan

Max Verstappen on the podium in Japan

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Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen admitted second place was as good as he could get at Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The 19-year-old remained within about five seconds of race winner Nico Rosberg throughout the race but the German, who extended his championship lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton to 33 points, was in total control throughout.

Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps

Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps

"In the race we had quick pace but I think Nico was still only cruising," said Verstappen after finishing second for consecutive races. "When I sped up Nico could match it and if I slowed he did also, he was in control.

"The team gave me a really strong strategy, along with a car that felt very balanced so I was able to enjoy a successful race. I was really happy to be able to get in-between the two Mercedes cars, it is a great result yet again for the team."

Verstappen came under pressure late in the race from a recovering Hamilton, whose poor start saw him play catch-up throughout. But a late move at the chicane on the penultimate lap saw the reigning world champion out-brake himself to avoid a collision with the Dutchman, handing a safe final lap for Verstappen to take the chequered flag.

He said: "Lewis was obviously a bit quicker in the final stages and I knew he was going to catch me, the gap time on the pit board was dropping every lap. Into the last chicane I saw him coming in my mirrors so I defended my position, this allowed me to hang on for the second place."

Verstappen was among a handful of drivers to complain about back-markers during the race too. Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were also vocal about slower cars holding them up, and the Red Bull man felt the rules needed to be looked at to improve the situation for all concerned.

"I have been in the same situation last year and earlier this year," he added. "I understand from their (back-markers) perspective you want to race but the guys lapping you are racing for a podium so you have to have a different approach."