Max Verstappen said that both he and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing failed to extract the full potential of their package in qualifying for the French Grand Prix.
Verstappen managed fourth place, ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, nearly seven-tenths adrift of polesitter Lewis Hamilton. He managed the second fastest time in Qualifying 1, but Red Bull ultimately fell short of the promise they showed in yesterday’s Free Practice sessions.
The Dutchman revealed that he struggled for front end grip on a damp track. However, he said that he would have preferred the rain to intensify throughout the session.
“I don’t think we maximised the potential of the car in qualifying today,” Verstappen said.
“I was struggling a bit with front grip which didn’t make it easy, but we still qualified in fourth. It would have been nice if it had continued raining all day but unfortunately it dried up just in time for the session.”
Red Bull opted for a low drag setup in order to counteract the lack of power output from their Renault Sport customer unit, opposed to the works Mercedes and Ferrari engines. Verstappen suggested that the aggressive setup contributed to poor performance in the longer corners – predominantly in the final sector. However, the Dutchman is confident that their race pace will allow them to compete with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport and Scuderia Ferrari.
“We can see that on the straights we are still down on speed compared to the Mercedes but also we didn’t have the balance of the car perfect, in the long corners we were losing time also,” he added.
“In the race I think we will have to wait and see. My race pace looks good but so does a lot of the others and coming to a new race means anything can happen.”
Verstappen and his team-mate Ricciardo followed Mercedes in setting their best Q2 time on the super-soft tyres, a decision that sees them counter Ferrari’s choice to run the ultra-softs. The 20-year-old admitted that Vettel and sixth placed Kimi Räikkönen may be faster from the start, but Formula 1‘s return to a recently re-surfaced Circuit Paul Ricard leaves plenty of unknowns.
“I start on the super-soft so Sebastian should have a bit more grip,” he explained. “This will make it a little tricky but hopefully we will go for longer on our tyres.
“All weekend we haven’t really had a reference as the track is new, there are still a lot of question marks ahead of tomorrow so we just have to wait and see what happens.”