Max Verstappen feels happy to be starting the Bahrain Grand Prix from the clean side of the grid, but the Dutchman says he would have preferred to have been closer to pole position than he was.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver had been second fastest after the first runs in Q3, but despite a lap he described as ‘pretty good’, he was unable to find enough speed to deny Lewis Hamilton top spot, and he fell behind Valtteri Bottas as well by 0.125 seconds. His best lap was more than four-tenths of a second off the lap record time set by Hamilton in taking pole position.
Verstappen says it will be difficult to take the fight to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team on Sunday evening at the Bahrain International Circuit, but he hopes an opportunity presents itself so he can fight for his second victory of the season.
“My lap felt pretty good, but we just lacked a bit of rear grip in the low speed corners but overall, it was quite a decent qualifying,” said Verstappen. “Of course, I would have liked to fight for pole but if that is not possible, I think it is ok to start third and on the clean side of the grid.
“Let’s see how we go tomorrow in the race because it’s very hard on tyres here so hopefully we’ve made the right compromise on that. We have different tyres to choose from so hopefully that works to our favour, but we’ll see.
“It’s always difficult to say if we can fight Mercedes and I definitely think they picked up their pace today, but I will try and keep as close as possible and hopefully find an opportunity.”
“Starting on the second row puts us in a good position” – Alexander Albon
Twenty-four hours ago, team-mate Alexander Albon was stepping out of a heavily damaged RB16 after a final turn crash during second practice, but the Thai driver responded well and equalled his best Qualifying performance in Formula 1 with fourth.
Albon may not have had the same kind of pace of Verstappen, but he still had enough to take his place on the second row of the grid, having been towards the back end of the top ten after the first runs in Q3.
He goes into the race without much information about how the tyres will perform on long runs, but he has high hopes he can score big points come Sunday evening as he continues to fight for his future with Red Bull.
“It feels good to equal my best quali, I did want more from the session but if you look how it was 24 hours ago, this was a good result,” said Albon. “Starting on the second row puts us in a good position to take the fight to Mercedes.
“Coming from FP3, the car was feeling really strong and I was ready to push hard in qualifying. We were surprisingly quick today compared to yesterday, but I haven’t done a long run yet so let’s see how that goes tomorrow!
“I’ll be starting on the mediums tomorrow, I think the deg will be high so managing the tyres will be crucial. It will be a fun race for the fans to watch, that’s for sure.”
“It was a solid qualifying session from both drivers” – Christian Horner
Christian Horner, the Team Principal of Red Bull, says it was a ‘solid’ effort by the team in Qualifying, with the second row lockout marking the best result in Qualifying at the track during the hybrid era.
Horner admitted that he was hoping that Verstappen could get in between the two Mercedes drivers up front, but to have the Dutchman third and Albon fourth gives them a good chance of a strong result on Sunday evening under the floodlights in Bahrain.
“It was a solid qualifying session from both drivers with third and fourth our best result at this circuit in the hybrid era,” said Horner. “We thought we might be able to split the two Mercedes with Max, but we just missed out by a tenth in the end.
“Nonetheless Max in third and a good qualifying for Alex to line up alongside him in fourth are great starting positions for tomorrow’s Grand Prix, especially at a track where overtaking is possible, so hopefully we’re set up for an exciting race.
“It was a good recovery for Alex, particularly after yesterday’s incident, and with fourth he matches his best qualifying result of the season.”