Verstappen’s calmness under pressure was tested on Sunday as he made a set of medium Pirellis run to the edge of their life over 32 laps, while soaking up the intense pursuit of former world champion Kimi Räikkönen, whose Ferrari was in DRS range of the Red Bull for much of the last 10 laps.
Afterwards, the Netherlands’ first GP winner ventured that he wasn’t nervous at any point, but that he did have to contain his excitement as he managed degrading tyres and keeping Räikkönen at bay.
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“On the last lap I got a bit of cramp. I was getting very excited. I couldn't believe it. I was looking up to the big boards, I saw my name, first, with 10 laps to go. Okay, I was already first before, but then I started to watch the board. I was just thinking to myself, 'Don't look at it any more and focus on the tyres and bring it home'," said Verstappen.
It’s not just that Verstappen is 18, but that at no point has he looked like he doesn’t belong at the grown-up end of the grid. His performances throughout his tenure at Toro Rosso suggested he was the real deal and once in a Red Bull he was immediately at home.
It took a monumental lap from team-mate Daniel Ricciardo (no slouch) to push Verstappen down to fourth on the grid in qualifying. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of it all is that four years ago he was racing karts. He did one year in Formula 3, where he won 11 races, and has made 24 grand prix starts so far. This feels like the beginning of an amazing story.
Title favourites crash out
That said, it would probably have been a different tale if the two Mercedes had not crashed into one another on the first lap of the race.
And on any other Sunday, the winner would have been almost an irrelevant side-note to a drama this big. The accident between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton that eliminated both from the race was cataclysmic, both in terms of cementing their entrenched positions within the Mercedes team and from a championship perspective. Has there been a more controversial incident between team-mates since Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna crashed at Suzuka in 1989? Back then there was a title on the line, the FIA got involved and punished Senna, and McLaren team principal Ron Dennis sided with the Brazilian - who lost the title to Prost.
On this occasion, Mercedes handled the situation skilfully. Too much energy and focus could be lost on a scandal like this at a pivotal point of the season where momentum is everything. The best thing, if it’s possible, is to shut it all down quickly and move on.