Max Verstappen was upbeat after qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, despite falling short of his target of third pace. The Dutchman instead qualified in a respectable fifth place, and is aiming to compete with the Ferraris on the row ahead in tomorrow’s race.
Thanks to the tight confines of the Baku street circuit containing mostly slow corners, Red Bull had benefited from being able to use a set-up more suited to their aerodynamic package, and had also benefited from an upgrade to their engine brought by their supplier Renault to the event. Verstappen indicated this combination of factors had given him optimism of a successful run heading into qualifying.
“The car felt very good during qualifying,” he remarked. “I struggled a bit to get the tyres working in sector one but everything else felt like it was going in the right direction.”
Former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel had suggested the red flag caused by the sister car of Daniel Ricciardo made an impact on his own performance in Q3, but Verstappen was quick to play down any suggestion this had cost him a chance at the second row of the grid.
“I think we realistically had a shot at P3 today, which on this track would have been a fantastic result. The red flag didn’t really have an impact on me, I had just about completed my fast lap and then had a chance for one lap when the session was restarted, just like everyone else.”
Technical problems with his RB13 had blighted his running in Free practice 3 earlier in the day, and Verstappen indicated the problems hadn’t been entirely remedied in time for qualifying, impacting his ultimate pace and costing him a shot at third.
“On my final lap in Q3 I was going about three tenths quicker than my best time but then I lost gear sync in the second sector, it cost me a couple of tenths which was frustrating and meant we could not challenge for third. I’m hopeful we can get on top of these issues overnight and be ready for tomorrow.”
Conceding that the first two steps of the podium were out of reach thanks to the lightning pace of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, he maintained that overhauling the Ferrari pair starting immediately ahead of him on the grid was an achievable goal, assuming his car holds together.
“Once again Mercedes have made a big step today so I don’t think we can get close to them but we will be looking to challenge Ferrari come the race. It would be great to get on the podium and that is the goal.”