Max Verstappen has explained the mindset he took into the final laps of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as the Red Bull driver attempted to get past Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for the race lead.
The reigning World Champion had spent the entire middle stint of the race around 1.5 seconds behind the leading Ferrari, but a late-race Virtual Safety Car period appeared to result in Verstappen having slightly warmer tyres when the race resumed.
With Verstappen latching onto the back of Leclerc for a full attack, what unfolded was nearly 10 laps of breathtaking duelling between the two drivers – which included some unusual tactics as the pair tried to catch each other out into the DRS zones.
While the Red Bull was quick in a straight line, the Ferrari was quicker in the corners, but it was a battle that Verstappen eventually prevailed in.
After the two drivers climbed out of their cars and congratulated each other, Verstappen revealed how he had tried to take a longer-term mindset into his race.
Verstappen plans out his attack on Leclerc
"It was really tough but a good race and we were battling hard at the front," Verstappen explained.
"We just tried to play the long game, [as Ferrari] were really quick through corners and we were quick on the straight."
Given that the Red Bull appeared to have marginally higher tyre wear during the race, their duel on old Hard rubber meant that a pass was never going to be easy.
"The tyres were wearing out quite quickly around here," added Verstappen.
"You could see [at] the end, we had a little bit more pace, so I just tried to get by.
"It wasn't easy, [we were] playing smart tricks in the last corner, but [I] eventually managed to get ahead. But even after that, [Leclerc] was constantly in the DRS and then, with the yellow flags on the last lap, [it was] just knowing how much you should lift [off], with [what] is allowed or not.
"It was tough, but I'm really happy we finally kick-started the season."
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A clever approach to the race-winning pass
Verstappen had managed to get by Leclerc early on in their scrap, but the timing of his move resulted in the Ferrari breezing back past through the next DRS zone.
With this in mind, Verstappen's eventual winning move came as he hung back into the final corner to ensure he had the DRS for the pit straight – meaning a wily bit of driving was required to ensure Leclerc couldn't outfox him again.
Verstappen said the difference of racing with the new generation of car, compared to the 2021 machines at the same venue, meant that it was particularly tricky to clear his opponent.
"It seems like once you get quite close, when you get within half a second, you actually can have a good exit," he commented.
"I think that makes it a lot more tricky to actually do the pass at the last corner compared to last year, so it's a lot harder to plan your pass!"
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