Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen had said he had a “tricky qualifying” for the Styrian Grand Prix due to the inclement weather, which had caused the cancellation of the final practice session on Saturday morning.
The Dutchman will line up second after putting a 1:20.489 on the board during the very wet final Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon and is encouraged by the possibilities due to starting on the front row. Verstappen is confident they will be able to take the fight to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and pole man, Lewis Hamilton.
He said he felt comfortable during the first two sessions, but in the shootout the rain started to fall more heavily, and he began to struggle with the increased amount of standing water. He mentioned that he was not feeling as happy with the balance of the car as he started to experience a lot of understeer.
“It was a tricky qualifying with the conditions but overall I’m pretty pleased with second on the grid,” he said. “Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2 were fine and I felt very comfortable but in Qualifying 3 it rained more and with the extra standing water we were struggling a bit more and I wasn’t as happy with the balance with a lot of oversteer.
“My final lap could of course have been a little better and I had a four wheel drift over the last kerb but still it would not have been good enough to beat Lewis. Let’s see tomorrow in the dry as it will be a different day and hopefully we will be quick enough to fight for the win.
“Starting on the front row gives us a good opportunity tomorrow to collect some good points and hopefully we can give Mercedes a hard time.”
“Our race pace is strong” – Alexander Albon
It was a different day for Verstappen’s team-mate, Alexander Albon, who after finishing qualifying felt he could have been starting higher up the grid but for a costly error.
The British-Thai driver qualified in seventh, putting in a lap time of 1:21.011, but will be promoted to sixth place following a three-place grid penalty given to McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris. However, a mistake on his final run cost him the chance of perhaps starting inside the top three.
“On my side that should have definitely been better,” said Albon. “It was my mistake, I just went off on my last lap as the track was improving and getting quicker otherwise I think we could have been third.
“I was maybe a bit happier with the car balance last weekend so we’ve got some work to do and we’ll study tonight.”
He seems confident he will be able to turn his qualifying performance around on Sunday as they’ve shown strong race pace, although he acknowledges he will have to be smart if he is to fight for that elusive maiden podium finish.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, our race pace is strong as we saw last week so let’s see what’s for the taking, he added. “We’ll have to be smart with the strategy as everyone knows what to expect tomorrow after last Sunday, so let’s see what we can do.”
“Tomorrow will come down to strategy and race pace” – Horner
Team principal Christian Horner is hopeful the team will be able to bring home a result, but thinks the weather will have an important role to play in that.
He praised the team for the job they did in extremely tricky conditions at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday and he hopes that both Verstappen and Albon are able to convert their grid positions into good results on Sunday.
“Qualifying in these weather conditions is very tricky but Max did a great job,” said Horner. “He lost a lot of time on his last lap when he came across Sebastian [Vettel] who was coming into the pits, otherwise he would have been a lot closer to Lewis but I don’t think he would have beaten him on that lap. So, Max starts in second for tomorrow’s race, and Alex in sixth.
“The Team did a good job today, working with the drivers to help them because they can’t see what is going on around them with all the spray in these weather conditions. Tomorrow will come down to strategy and race pace so let’s hope we can convert these grid positions into good results, but I hope the rain clears and we see the Austrian sunshine return.”