Revealed: Why Max Verstappen overruled Red Bull team over fastest lap attempt

Oliver Harden
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on the podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2023.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen would not have slept well had he failed to round off his Austrian Grand Prix victory with the bonus point for fastest lap.

Verstappen secured his fifth consecutive victory at Red Bull’s home race in Austria to maintain the team’s unbeaten start to the season and increase his points advantage over team-mate Sergio Perez to 81.

Not content with a pole-to-flag win, Verstappen prodded Red Bull to let him pit for soft tyres with two laps remaining to pursue the fastest lap point.

Max Verstappen ‘needed’ the fastest lap

Having led the race by more than 20 seconds at that stage, Verstappen rejoined just seconds ahead of the second-placed Ferrari and Charles Leclerc but proceeded to obliterate the fastest lap, taking the point away from Perez in the process.

Red Bull’s preparedness to risk the win at their own circuit with an extra pitstop in pursuit of the fastest lap has been viewed as a reflection of the team’s confidence after nine consecutive victories at the start of this season.

Yet after chief technical officer Adrian Newey admitted to being on edge during Verstappen’s late stop, Marko has acknowledged that he too was a little nervous about it.

“You can say that,” he told Austrian publication oe24. “A pit stop is always tricky. But Max was not to be dissuaded. He needs that to sleep well.

“We let him, we want our drivers to be happy.”

Track limits was a recurring issue at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, with multiple drivers – including Perez, who started a lowly 15th – having lap times deleted in qualifying.

The problem persisted in the race with a number of drivers incurring time penalties, with more delivered after the race after an FIA investigation into 1,200 track limits breaches.

Verstappen highlighted the flaws with the stance after being caught out a couple of times himself in qualifying, with Marko praising the reigning World Champion’s ability to learn from his mistakes and minimise excursions in the race.

And Marko is convinced that the track limits situation cannot be allowed to continue with three more races to be held before the end of July.

He said: “He had his problems in qualifying and learned from them for the race. Max was just supreme. He spoke calmly on the radio – like an afternoon snack.”

“Allegedly 1,200 offences were counted, which is crazy. That’s why I’m behind something being done by the next GP in 2024 – I’m sure there will be a solution.”

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Marko’s observations about Verstappen come after Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion, described the Dutchman as “a war machine, a robot” with an intensity unmatched by every other driver on the grid.

He said: “He always has an extraordinary energy, he never gives up. And he makes a difference.

“Verstappen has always been like that, for years. He’s at his best for the whole season. It’s hallucinating how he does it, maybe only Alonso was comparable.

“If you look at most of the other drivers they all have ups and downs, often with quite a bit of difference between them. Not him.

“I really don’t know where he gets all that energy from. When he is like that, which is practically all the time, he is unbeatable.”

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