Max Verstappen was ‘positively surprised’ by the result of Qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Saturday, with the Dutchman set to start the race from fourth on the grid.
The Red Bull Racing driver was happy with the speed of the Honda-powered RB15 but was slightly compromised in the top ten shootout by only having one available set of the soft compound of tyre, meaning he only had one opportunity to set a time.
He also did this without the benefit of a tow which, as was seen up and down the paddock, was very beneficial to the drivers following others, with more than two-tenths of a second being lost to them down the longest straight on the Formula 1 calendar.
“We were positively surprised that we were so competitive in qualifying and the second row of the grid is not bad,” said Verstappen. “Everything was going quite smoothly, but in Q3 we were running a different strategy as I only had one set of tyres so I was on my own.
“Around this track it is very painful to be on your own and you of course lose lap time to others who have a tow. Even compared to my own lap in Q2 I was losing around two and a half tenths on the main straight. You can also gain a tenth or two on the other straights having a car six or seven seconds ahead as you get sucked in and these cars have so much drag.
“I pushed everything I could out of my final lap and it was pretty good. I think we could have fought for pole if we were in that train of cars, but at least we know the car is working well.”
Verstappen believes it is all to play for on Sunday, with a first Honda victory since their return to Formula 1 as an engine manufacturer in 2015 not out of the question.
“It’s always a crazy one here and for sure the race won’t be won at Turn 1,” said the Dutchman. “It’s all pretty close and from fourth we can still fight for the race.”