Max Verstappen thought he would “finish fifth [or] sixth” in Formula 1’s 2024 British Grand Prix given Red Bull’s early pace deficit to Mercedes and McLaren before he recovered to second.

The Red Bull driver was passed by both McLaren cars in the dry early stages of the wet weather thriller at Silverstone on Sunday, so ran fifth having initially moved up from fourth to third behind early leaders George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen’s call on when to pit for intermediates in the race’s second, and longer, rain storm meant he jumped back to third. McLaren leaving Oscar Piastri out for an extra lap than all the rest of the leaders also aided the world champion, who moved ahead of Russell too when he had to stack behind Hamilton.

When it came to pitting for a second time to go back to the slicks, as the sun finally burst back through, Verstappen came in at the same time as Hamilton, who at this stage cycled to a lead he would never lose as Lando Norris stayed out for an extra lap.

Verstappen then used the hard tyres to catch and pass the soft-shod Norris before closing on Hamilton but ran out of time to pass.

“We just didn’t have the pace today,” Verstappen said in parc ferme afterwards.

“I was just steadily dropping back when it mattered in the beginning, so it didn’t look great. At some point I was really thinking, ‘Are we gonna finish fifth, sixth?’

“But, yeah, we made the right calls – direct from the slicks to the inters and also from the inters back to the slicks – I think it was every time the right lap.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“Then also the end – the call from the team to be on the hard tyre instead of the soft was definitely helping me out.

“But we also finished second today, so it could’ve been a lot worse, but we’re making the right calls – we still onto the podium and [I’m] of course very happy with that.”

Verstappen also said: “When it started to rain for the first time, of course I was already dropping back, struggling for grip, so I didn’t want to take too many risks.

“And I saw the guys ahead of me – they were really going for it. So I just tried to hang in there – not going off the track and that’s quite tricky.

“But then at one point it really started to come down and it was quite obvious that you had to go to the inter.

“Then, you had to make the tyre last as long as you could and suddenly alos the sun came out and the track really started to dry out quickly.

“But still, you feel quite comfortable on the inter, but at one point you just have to gamble to go to the slick and luckily it all worked out well.”