Max Verstappen says he cannot believe he won on his debut for Red Bull Racing in Formula 1 in the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Dutch teenager capitalized on a two-stop strategy to lead the race, holding off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen over the final stint while three-stoppers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo battled just a few seconds further back.
“It’s amazing, I couldn’t believe I was leading,” said 18-year-old Verstappen, who is now F1’s youngest race winner. “It’s a very big surprise, I didn’t expect that. Unbelievable, I can’t believe it.
“I was targeting a podium but to win straight away is an amazing feeling.
“In the last laps I got a bit of cramp – I was getting very excited, I couldn’t believe it.
“I was looking at the pitboard, saw my name with 10 laps to go, then started to watch the board. I was thinking, ‘Don’t look at it, focus on the tires and bring it home.’
“It’s a great feeling. I absolutely didn’t expect this.”
Key to Verstappen’s victory was fending off severe pressure from Raikkonen over the closing stages, especially once the 2007 world champion got within DRS range of the Red Bull.
“This race felt like an endurance race, especially the last 10 laps,” added Verstappen. “As soon as we pitted I knew we were going to the end, so the first few laps [of the last stint] I didn’t really push.
“The last stint I got a lot of pressure from Kimi behind but on this track it’s difficult to overtake. For me, it was a case of not making mistakes and it worked.
“I knew the Ferraris were a bit faster – I let them catch up, so it was just about keeping the gap. That worked well until eight laps from the end, we were catching traffic and it was about managing the last sector, get a good exit out of the last chicane.
“I knew it was going to be very hard, but you have to set your mind to try to control the tires. In the last few laps you’re driving on ice, managing everything. That’s how a lot of races are won in Barcelona.”