Aston Martin Red Bull Racing believes it has a chance of challenging Mercedes AMG Motorsport and Scuderia Ferrari at the Formula 1 British Grand Prix after a strong qualifying.
Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly are sandwiched between the two Ferraris in fourth and fifth, while Austrian Grand Prix winner Verstappen qualified just 0.183 seconds away from polesitter Valtteri Bottas‘s time on an overcast afternoon at Silverstone.
Red Bull had topped Friday’s first practice session through Gasly, but started to lag behind the leading duo as the weekend progressed.
Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session signalled a welcome return to form and has ignited optimism over a second victory in as many races in 2019.
Verstappen’s qualifying was met with a recurring throttle lag problem on the Honda power unit, causing issues on the exit of Silverstone’s few slow corners.
“Before qualifying I wasn’t comfortable and still searching for a good balance,” said Verstappen. “Around here with all the fast corners you have to feel fully confident in the car to get a good lap time.
“Unfortunately, I had a problem with lag and out of the low speed corners I was losing time.
“When you look at how close we are to pole position then the result is bittersweet as I think we could have fought for pole if everything had been perfect.”
The amount of rake on the Red Bull car was apparent in Free Practice 3, with the RB13 producing a frequent shower of sparks and the front wing endplates even making contact with the track surface under load.
Despite the higher rear wing position, Verstappen says that Red Bull has achieved a good balance between downforce and straightline speed.
“We seem to have found a good wing level for the straights, we usually have even better performance in the race and with the good balance we had in qualifying I’m quite confident,” he added.
“The strategy will be very important because of the high energy levels put through the tyres on this track but I will be flat out and hopefully we can put up a good fight.”
Gasly, like Verstappen, will start the race on medium compound tyres and on the third row of the grid for the fifth time in 2019 – ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
The Frenchman has proved to be a greater match for Verstappen at Silverstone, finishing ahead of the Dutchman in all three Free Practice sessions and qualifying just 0.314s behind him.
Gasly said that he has found a “happy place” with the car and echoes Verstappen’s hopes that Red Bull can build on a good qualifying showing with competitive race pace.
“I think we’ve made a big step forward this weekend and it was important to get a good qualifying position,” said Gasly.
“We’ve been working well all weekend and I was in a happy place with the car coming into qualifying.
“The whole weekend has been really positive and things are a lot better, so now we need to focus on tomorrow.
“Our race pace on Friday was good and I think we have a strong car so now I’m just excited to race.”
Team principal Christian Horner praised Verstappen and Gasly for their performances, describing Verstappen’s proximity to the pole time as “very satisfying” and commending Gasly for recovering from a difficult weekend at the team’s home race.
“For Max, to qualify under two tenths off pole position at a power circuit like Silverstone is very satisfying,” said Horner.
“And it is good to see things coming together for Pierre who got his joint best qualifying position of the year.
“Pierre has turned a page since Austria and you can see from his first session today that his approach is different.
“He is much more confident in himself and the car, and this track is all about confidence to get a strong result.”