Max struggled to use radio in Sochi downpour

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen intermediate tyres. Russia September 2021

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on intermediate Pirelli tyres in the rain, spraying being kicked up. Russia September 2021

Fighting to keep his RB16B on the track as the rain came down at Sochi, Max Verstappen “couldn’t press the radio button” to talk strategy with Red Bull.

Verstappen put in arguably one of his best drives ever at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, racing his way from 20th on the grid to second at the chequered flag.

He was, however, given a helping hand in the closing laps as the rain came down.

Verstappen had worked his way up to seventh place on a dry track but that’s where his progressed stalled.

With it appearing as if the Red Bull was going to lose a hefty chunk of points to title rival Lewis Hamilton, who was chasing down Lando Norris for the win, a light drizzle began to fall.

Catching out the drivers through Turns 5 to 7 but dry in other places, Verstappen was onto the radio to discuss strategy with Red Bull.

But, as the rain grew steadily heavier, even strategy talks became difficult with the Dutchman revealing he needed both hands just to keep his car on the track, so pressing the radio button wasn’t ideal.

Ultimately the driver made the call to pit for intermediates, the team agreeing, and Verstappen was into the pits and up to second place.

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“Naturally when you’re driving on slicks and it starts raining, it’s more of a driver feel, so they kept on asking me,” he explained after the race.

“Communication is very important when it’s like that – so they kept on asking me, even though sometimes I couldn’t press the radio button because you’re trying to keep the car on the track.

“I was saying, the lap before, I think we still have to continue, because I was only losing like eight, nine seconds and then yeah, that lap, when we boxed, at one point it was so hard to keep the car on the track.

“I was like ‘we need to box’ but you’re not entirely sure. Then the team said ‘OK, we’ll box’, they called me in and it was the right call.”

Verstappen left the Sochi circuit trailing Hamilton, who won the race, by two points.


Racing his way from 20th on the grid to second at the chequered flag, Verstappen put in one of the best recovery drives seen in the past 20 years.

Asked if that is something he thought about as he was gaining places, he said: “I didn’t think like about stuff like that.

“At the end of the day, you have to always just go out from your own perspective. And every year, every track, the conditions are completely different.

“But for me, of course, what was very important for me was just staying out of trouble. And just tried to work your way forwards but safely. And I think that’s what we did.”

The record for the most positions recovered in a grand prix belongs Roberto Mieres who gained 26 places at the 1954 British Grand Prix.


PlanetF1 verdict


Tale of two halves for Red Bull at Sochi

The Red Bull drivers had very different weekends at the Russian Grand Prix.