Max Verstappen believes the fact that Nico Hulkenberg put his Racing Point in P3 for the 70th Anniversary GP shows he should still be on the grid full-time.
The German driver was dropped by Renault at the end of the 2019 season and was left without a drive for this year.
But he is now standing in for Sergio Perez at Racing Point for a second weekend in a row with the Mexican still suffering from COVID-19, and it’s safe to say Hulkenberg is taking his chances.
He will start the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix from P3 behind only the dominant Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, so Verstappen believes it proves that Hulkenberg should never have been lost from the grid in the first place.
“They [Racing Point] have been competitive the whole weekend already, and I’m very happy for Nico,” he told reporters at Silverstone.
“He should have already been on the grid, and of course I hope that this performance will give him a seat for next year.”
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Verstappen will be starting the race from P4 on the hard tyres, the only driver in the top 10 to make that compound their starting tyre.
He isn’t sure whether anyone outside the top 10 will follow his lead, but he thinks that he can get a good start and opening stint out of them, since the hard compound this weekend was the medium tyre at last week’s British Grand Prix, also held at Silverstone.
“I just hope I can have a clean start on the hard tyre,” he said.
“But the hard tyre is last weekend’s medium so I don’t think it’s going to be that bad.
“Of course you might lose a little bit in the initial launch, but I think it’s going to be better for the first stint.
“Of course it depends also if there are Safety Cars or not so we just have to wait and see, but at least it’s different to what other people are doing around me and we can see if we can do a better job.”
Lando Norris tried starting on the hards last weekend and got swamped by medium-tyre runners, but Verstappen is confident that the drivers behind him won’t cause him many problems.
“But my start last week was good, even compared to the guys behind me who were on softs, so we just need to make sure that we have a good launch again,” he explained.
“And then, to be honest, I don’t expect too many issues with the cars behind me.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon had a difficult qualifying and will start from P9, and he cut a dejected figure saying every time he works through an issue with the RB16, another crops up the next time he goes out on track.
“Just tricky, it feels like we go out and it’s always something different,” he admitted.
“To be honest it didn’t feel terrible, we did a pretty good lap on an old set of mediums in Q3, so I was pretty optimistic going onto the last set.
“But I just struggled, it felt different to the previous run and I didn’t improve on a new soft compared to an old medium.
“So we need to do some work to figure out why.”
Recovery drives have been Albon’s thing in a Red Bull though, and he hopes for another one to add to the collection on Sunday.
“It will be a better race I think just because there’s more strategy to play for,” he said.
“We’ve shown we have good race pace last weekend.”