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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Red Bull's Max Verstappen proves at Abu Dhabi GP why he is one to watch

Dutchman finishes on podium despite spending closing laps of race unable to see clearly with helmet visor covered in oil

Max Verstappen finished third in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. Getty Images
Max Verstappen finished third in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. Getty Images

Yas Marina Circuit had acknowledged the increasing popularity of Max Verstappen ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by dedicating a section of the Marina Grandstand to his supporters.

His travelling army of Dutch fans were not let down by their compatriot as the Red Bull Racing driver recovered from a slow start to achieve his first podium in the UAE as he finished third behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

It was not all plain sailing for the 21 year old, however, as he spent the closing laps of the race unable to see clearly as his helmet visor became covered in oil.

This had come from Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso, which was having an engine failure when Verstappen came to lap him.

It led to an uncomfortable final few laps and Verstappen conceded he had been concerned he could come under threat from his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

"It was a bit of oil, I don't know what happened there," Verstappen said.

"I already went through all my tear-offs and there was so much oil on my visor it was like driving through fog, it was horrible.

“I asked the team ‘Where is Daniel as I can’t see him in the mirrors, nothing’.”

Verstappen had been confident that he would be able to mix it with the Mercedes and Ferrari cars in the opening laps.

Starting on the softest of the three Pirelli tyre compounds, the hypersoft, he had anticipated a rapid getaway.

Instead a problem with the engine mode bogged him down and he dropped to 10th on the first lap.

He quickly moved back up the order and would earn his fifth podium finish in a row by passing Mercedes-GP driver Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages.

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Read more:

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Abu Dhabi GP talking points: Hamilton doubles up as Smith's tour guide

Lewis Hamilton wins Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina: As it happened

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Read back: How the rest of the weekend unfolded

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"It was not an easy race, I had a problem at the start but then my engine went into safety mode and I had it again in the restart afterwards,” he said of his slow start to the race.

"But I managed to go back and put some pressure of the guys ahead and we managed to keep the supersofts [tyres] alive. We had a good pace.”

Verstappen was 12.7 seconds adrift of race winner Hamilton at the end, but he held off Ricciardo, who was in his last race for the Austrian team before he joins Renault in 2019.

Ricciardo said: "I would have loved a podium. I can't be ecstatic with fourth, to be honest. I was a bit lonely the last few laps. I couldn't really do much more."