Max Verstappen has said his Red Bull team will need to work hard over the winter to close the gap on Formula One’s top two teams, after rounding off his season with his fifth successive podium finish.
Verstappen’s slim hopes of victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday were foiled at the start when four cars overtook him before the first corner, pushing him down to 10th place. The Dutchman blamed a faulty sensor that detected his engine was overheating and cut his acceleration.
The 21-year-old progressed through the field to third place, ahead of Mercedes’ number two Valtteri Bottas, enabling him to overtake the Finn and claim fourth place in the drivers’ standings.
Verstappen was just behind Nico Hülkenburg when he crashed out of the race on the first lap after being bumped by Romain Grosjean. The German’s Renault flipped over and bounced on its head before landing in the barriers and catching fire, but he was able to climb out unhurt and give an interview in Dutch to broadcaster Ziggo shortly afterwards.
After a series of crashes and mistakes blighted the first six races, Verstappen ended the season with two wins and 11 top three finishes, fuelling hopes that he could be a major contender in 2019. But the driver told NOS he took a ‘more realistic’ view of his chances.
‘Obviously I can see what’s going on at the factory and it all looks very positive, but you don’t know what the competition are doing,’ he said.
‘It’s easy to say, next year we’ll be contenders for the world championship. I want to look at the winter tests first. I think we still need to catch up with the performances of Mercedes and Ferrari, but we’re working very hard and that’s positive.’
Verstappen also took a side-swipe at engine manufacturer Renault, which Red Bull have ditched in favour of Honda from next season. ‘If we’d had another engine we would have won a lot more this year,’ he said.
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