Max Verstappen was voted Driver of the Day for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as he completed a strong recovery drive from 15th on the grid to second place in the race.
A driveshaft problem ended Verstappen‘s qualifying before he had a chance to set a time in Q2, but the Dutchman was able to put that behind him on race day to storm up to the front of the grid and looked like he was in contention for the win at one point.
Though he never could close in on teammate and race winner Sergio Perez, Verstappen managed to snatch the fastest lap at the end, meaning he retains the championship lead.
“I gave it a go at the end and luckily it worked out,” Verstappen said at the end of the race. “It wasn’t very easy to get through the field, but I cleared them one by one and got into a good rhythm and I’m very happy to be here on the podium.”
Verstappen complained several times on the radio about his driveshaft in the race and added he was worried about it until the chequered flag:
“I was in second we had a big gap behind and we decided to call it a day and settle for second,” he said.
How did Verstappen finish second?
Verstappen kept calm and stayed out of trouble at the start of the race, without setting Jeddah alight.
With Charles Leclerc also starting out of position, in 12th, Verstappen initially lost ground to his 2022 title rival, but worked his way up the field and was soon in the points.
With many cars choosing not to battle him and focus on their own race, it was the safety car for Lance Stroll‘s retirement that closed up the pack and catapulted Verstappen into contention for the race win.
However, he said the driveshaft was feeling rough with plenty of time still to go in the race, and seemed to be matching pace with Perez rather than putting too much pressure through the car.
Verstappen did opt to go for the fastest lap though, grabbing it on the last lap to go one point ahead of Perez in the drivers’ championship.