Verstappen marks 21st birthday with Sochi charge

Max Verstappen finished fifth in the Russian Grand Prix. (AFP pic)

SOCHI: Max Verstappen marked his 21st birthday on Sunday with a memorable drive from 19th on the grid to finish fifth for Red Bull in the Russian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, who has declared he wants to win four world titles in the future, said he felt happy with not only his result, but also the style of his charge through the field at the Sochi Autodrom.

“My goal was always to be P5, but (with) the way in which we did it today, I can be very pleased,” he said. “But I was not sure about it before the race.”

Verstappen started at the back of the grid after picking up penalties for engine rules infringements and said he had rejected the chance to taste a birthday cake baked for him before the race.

“I think I will have some now, though,” he said, once the race, won by Mercedes’ world champion Lewis Hamilton, was over.

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner praised Verstappen, who had a long spell as race leader, for his maturity.

“It was a pity he had to stop, but it was mandatory,” he said referring to Verstappen’s late pit stop for new tyres when he was leading the field.

“We had a car that was very good on its tyres,” said Horner.

“There was no sign of any blistering on the soft tyres and it would have been nice to start in normal grid positions.”