Max Verstappen will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from third on the grid after a great effort during Saturday’s qualifying session that left him best of the rest behind the dominant Mercedes pairing.
The Red Bull Racing driver ended up 0.570 seconds behind pole sitter Lewis Hamilton but 0.047 seconds faster than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, and with both drivers out-qualifying the Ferrari drivers, Verstappen admitted to being pleased with the outcome of the qualifying session.
“I thought it was going to be a tough race for us before we came here,” said Verstappen. “Now it seems like the balance of the car is there, the long runs seem good and we have improved our short run pace a lot.
“We were pretty close to the Mercedes on the front row and I’m really enjoying the new surface here, the car is working very well on it. For both of us to be on the second row, in front of Ferrari, means we can be very pleased with today’s work.”
Verstappen felt that the long pace he ran during practice was the best he’s done in recent races, which takes him into Sunday’s race in a positive frame of mind and confident of a strong result.
“Out of the past three or four races this has been my best long run pace on a Friday, we haven’t changed much on the car so it should be similar tomorrow,” said Verstappen. “After Singapore I talked with the team and we changed some things on the car and it seems to have worked, hopefully we can keep improving in this way.
“We have made some changes to the clutch so we shall see if it has improved tomorrow, so far everything looks positive. The set up feels really good here and we will no doubt check everything tonight to make sure we are in the best position possible on race day.”