By Alan Baldwin
July 19 (Reuters) - Max Verstappen finished a stunning second on Sunday in a Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix he had feared might be over before the start after he crashed his Red Bull on the way to the grid.
The Dutch 22-year-old had arrived in Budapest from Austria as the man most likely to take the fight to dominant Mercedes but it did not look that way as the clock ticked down to lights out.
Seventh in qualifying, Verstappen nearly did not even make it as far as his allotted slot.
He skidded off at turn 12 on a damp and slippery track as he headed from garage to grid, crunching into the tyre barrier and smashing the front wing.
"I was already struggling the whole lap for grip and then basically just locked up and I couldn’t get out of it so I just went straight into the wall," he explained.
"I thought the race was over but I managed to reverse the car out of the wall. And yeah, it’s like a ‘never give up’ mentality, still.
"Bring the car to the grid and see what happens, right? I could have jumped out there and said 'it’s over' but... the mechanics, they did an amazing job to repair that car and I was just very happy to start the race."
Mechanics swarmed around the Red Bull, some running back to the garage for a new wing while others worked feverishly on the front left suspension.
Verstappen meanwhile walked away to join the other drivers for the national anthem.
"I was very calm. I was like ‘let’s see if they are going to make it’ and if not then that’s it, that’s the race done, and the whole disappointing weekend would have been completed, you know," he said.
"But they did an amazing job, so I was really fired up to get back in the car and show them that the effort was not for nothing... it was a crazy 10 to 12 minutes."
While Valtteri Bottas messed up his front row start, Verstappen raced up and into second behind the Finn's Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, the pole sitter and eventual winner who was always out of reach.
"To be able to split the two Mercedes cars in the race after such a difficult weekend for us is a great result and something we definitely didn’t expect," said Verstappen.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar)
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