Max Verstappen believes that Aston Martin Red Bull Racing have a good chance of fighting with Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport in tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after qualifying in fourth and fifth.
Verstappen trailed team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in an eventful Qualifying session, finding himself in the top five courtesy of a mistake from Kimi Räikkönen at Turn 16. The Finn will start behind Verstappen in sixth despite looking like he was going to pip Sebastian Vettel to pole position in the late stages.
Fifth place is a position that Verstappen feels comfortable with, admitting that Red Bull are unable to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes in Qualifying trim.
“Qualifying today was okay; nothing special but we are also not too far away,” said Verstappen, who suffered a testing start to his Azerbaijan weekend yesterday.
“We were in reach but of course we know that in Qualifying they turn up their engines. But in general, not bad and I think we have a good chance to fight tomorrow.”
The 20-year-old suspected that Red Bull’s decision to send both of their cars out at the same time, in order to utilise the slipstream down the long 2.2 kilometre straight at the Baku City Circuit, cost him a little bit of time as he lost temperature in the ultra-soft tyres before taking to the track. Cooler ambient and track temperatures have caused trouble this weekend, with some drivers needing an extra warm-up lap.
“On the last run we were waiting to try and get a tow,” he explained. “I think that cost us a bit because I was waiting in the garage with the heaters already off and couldn’t get heat in the tyres like I wanted to.”
Like team-mate Ricciardo, Vettel and the Mercedes duo, Verstappen set his best Qualifying 2 time on the super-soft compound. Räikkönen may threaten Verstappen from the start on the grippier ultra-soft tyres, but the Dutchman is confident that the longer first stint will work in his favour.
“With the tyres, the ultra-soft is not that easy but we qualified on the super-soft so hopefully that will give us a longer first stint,” he projected.
“The top five cars are on the super-softs so I don’t think it will offer much except we can extend the stint for longer compared to Kimi who is on the [ultra-softs], but we’ll find out.”
Verstappen talked about the high winds that have graced Baku this weekend, saying that the conditions have had an effect of aerodynamic stability. Higher winds are forecast for tomorrow, and the Dutchman seemed cautious about Red Bull’s naturally downforce favoured car. However, he said that Red Bull can contend for a podium, at least.
“The wind was very tricky today and is forecast to be even stronger tomorrow for the race, so we’ll have to see what that does,” he said. “Aerodynamics are very sensitive to wind, it’s the same as in a plane, you can fly fast in one direction and can go faster in the other direction.
“The cars are very sensitive to that, we had some struggles in the corners, and the more downforce you have the more tricky the wind can be. We are still in a good position to fight from and many things are possible on this track.”