Max Verstappen says the penalty which cost him a podium in the Monaco GP energised him in his engrossing battle with Lewis Hamilton.
Although the Dutchman ran nose-to-tail with Hamilton for almost a quarter of the race, crossing the line in second place, he was classified fourth thanks to an earlier five-second penalty imposed for an unsafe release from his pit stop.
Released into the path of Valtteri Bottas, who had run second before the stops, Verstappen made contact with the Mercedes, with stewards ruling that the Red Bull “had the opportunity to avoid the contact contributing to the unsafe release”.
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From there, Verstappen found himself in the curious position of being boxed in between three cars – behind Hamilton, who was preserving his tyres, and ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Bottas – knowing that his fate was sealed unless he overtook the Mercedes.
“It fired me up,” Verstappen told reporters. “As soon as I heard the penalty I was just pushing Lewis really hard because initially he was driving so slow.
“Then I heard I had the penalty so I just kept pushing him. Then of course he had to push because I would attack him, then he destroyed his tyres.
“So that was my only way of trying to get by.”
On harder and more durable tyres, Verstappen increasingly ran within one second of Hamilton as the race wore on and although he could get close to the back of the Mercedes, particularly at the hairpin, the world champion pulled away on the straights.
Verstappen’s one half-chance came at the harbourside chicane with two laps to go, but the pair made contact and Hamilton stayed ahead.
“I couldn’t really plan because I was always so close out of the hairpin, but out of Turn Eight I just lost that momentum,” recalled the 21-year-old.
“At one point I was like ‘okay, let’s have a go and see what happens’ then we had this little touch. Under braking you don’t look in your mirrors already and, anyway, they are difficult to see through. I think there was no one to blame and we didn’t have any real damage.”
Verstappen believes the incident with the other Mercedes which led his penalty was “just unfortunate” as Red Bull released him from the pit lane.
“I didn’t know there was anyone next to me because they released me and of course it was all getting a bit tight,” he said.
“We were ahead, it’s a shame that we touched. But I couldn’t see him.”
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and was replicated with permission.