Third felt like a win for Max Verstappen in Brazil
Max Verstappen's sensational podium finish 'felt like victory' for the teenager as he came from 14th to snatch third in a Hollywood end to the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
While Lewis Hamilton dominated the race at the front to take the championship battle to the final race in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen stole the headlines with a stellar performance, carving through the field after a late pit-stop dropped him out of the points to climb back up to third place in the remaining 16 laps.
The Red Bull Racing ace, who won his first Grand Prix in Spain making his debut for the Tilbrook team, even rescued his RB12 after a mighty slide in the wet sent him towards the wall, keeping his place on the road.
Verstappen appeared to be in for a chance of the win when he and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo pitted for intermediate tyres prior to a safety car, but as more rain fell at the Interlagos circuit, both needed to pit late in the day for extreme wet tyres, dropping them out of the points scoring places.
But both were able to battle back through the field, with Ricciardo taking eighth and Verstappen standing on the podium.
"For a lap or so it was really good but then more rain came which resulted in no grip in the last sector," the Dutchman admitted. "There was no way we could carry on so had to pit again for wets.
"From there on the race was really good fun, plenty of overtakes around the outside because if you stay behind them there’s too much spray, I had to find another line.
"I just kept my head down and managed to get past quite a few cars in the remaining laps. I could hear the crowd going crazy when my engineer was on the radio, so I’m very thankful for the Brazilian fans for getting behind me.
"At the end when I crossed the line it felt like a victory, it was almost as beautiful as my race in Barcelona.”
While Verstappen was named Driver of the Day again for his performance in Brazil, it was a frustrating afternoon for Ricciardo.
After Sauber's Marcus Ericsson crashed early on, the Australian was penalised five seconds as he came in to change tyres despite the pit lane being closed. Taken at his next pit-stop, he was out of contention for the higher scoring places, but dropped even further back when he, like Verstappen, had to change from intermediates to extreme wets late on.
While he too was able to slice through the field, he couldn't make as much progress as his team-mate and had to settle for eighth.
He said: " It’s a shame as the car was a lot better than eighth, when we had a clear track our speed was good.
"It was tricky out there, for example with Kimi (Raikkonen of Ferrari), I didn’t see him crash in front of me. It wasn’t until I got back to the pits and saw a replay I knew he’d crashed.
"From that point of view they obviously make some good calls with red flags. I’m glad we got to race and glad we could finish it, and that despite some crashes everyone was safe. The fans put up with a long afternoon so thanks to them for staying with it.”