Verstappen steers Honda to first F1 win of 2020
Honda’s current F1 engine has been unfairly criticized for having a short shelf life, but Max Verstappen silences critics and shows that the particular issue matters very little on the track.
Pairing a solid opening with a strong engine performance, Verstappen pulled away from the pack to hand Honda its first win of this year’s Formula 1 season during the Emirates 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone last August 9.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Honda team’s decision to start Verstappen with hard Pirelli tires yielded more than modest results, as the Belgian-Dutch racer caught up to the front-running Mercedes almost immediately after starting fourth on the grid.
Verstappen went on to drive at a feverish pace, rejecting his team’s advice to relent and save his tires. He then harried the Mercedes into pit stops by Lap 14 and took a lead that he would maintain for all of the following 12 laps.
Fellow competitor Valtteri Botas briefly took the lead on Lap 26 when Verstappen went with medium tires after a pit stop, but the Honda driver regained the lead after just five turns. Banking on a two-second advantage, he and Bottas both took a pitstop again on Lap 33 while Lewis Hamilton stayed on the track, albeit on rapidly blistering tires.
Returning from the pit, Verstappen again turned up the heat, reducing Hamilton’s advantage by three seconds in just two laps. When Hamilton finally decided to pit, he would no longer be able to retake the lead from Verstappen.
Ten laps later, Verstappen had amassed an 11-second lead, effectively securing his and Honda’s first win of the year.
“The race showed we had the right strategy after our decision to qualify on the hard tire and I’m pleased it paid off,” Verstappen said after the race. “I think the length and pace of our first stint was the key to being competitive as the mediums don’t last that long, so starting on the hard was definitely the right call.”
“When you are able to overtake and pull away from a Mercedes it is really satisfying,” he commented. “Of course, I hope this will happen a lot more throughout the season and we’ll keep pushing them hard even though they have been the dominant team up until now. We will enjoy today because everyone deserves it after all the hard work, before focusing on next week’s race in Barcelona.”
Verstappen’s teammate Alex Albon ended up fifth, scoring his third top-five finish of the year. Albon made three passes on the outside of Turn 9, including one of Kimi Raikkonen where he had trouble keeping his Honda-powered machine within the track limits.
The victory moved Verstappen into second place in the championship after five races, and maintained the Honda-powered Red Bull squad’s second-place position in the constructors’ championship. Albon is sixth in the chase for the driver’s title.
Drivers and teams participating in the Formula 1 World Championship will be heading off to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix next week.
Photo/s from Honda