Max Verstappen will start tomorrows race in a Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team sandwich in second place.
The Dutch driver hasn’t had the strongest of weekend but pulled out a stellar lap in Q3 to put himself on the front row with Lewis Hamilton.
Although Verstappen is always striving for the best from his car, he is still presently surprised at managing to get second today.
“P2 was very unexpected and I don’t say this often but I think this was one of my best ever qualifying laps and it felt really good. I was struggling a bit in Q1 and Q2 with the balance of the car and we made some small improvements to stabilise everything and in Q3, especially on the second run, they worked and the lap was good.” Said Verstappen.
Of course we want to fight for pole and wins but this year it is not possible all the time, so then to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is very satisfying and I’m happy to be on the front row here. I’m starting on the dirty side of the grid which does make a difference with the initial launch but I’m also on the medium tyre which is the best way for us.
If we can have a decent start, the tow effect is very big so who knows what can happen into Turn Two. I think the Mercedes does still have more overall pace so they will be hard to beat but I’m happy with today and I think we really extracted more than we thought was possible and we can be very happy with that.”
It looked like Alexander Albon’s misfortunes where being him after gaining his first ever podium two weeks ago at thebTuscan Grand Prix.
However, Albon looked off the pace all weekend and couldn’t pull it out of the bag for qualifying like his team-mate. What was even more disappointing is that he will start tomorrow tenth and set a time which was over a second slower than Verstappen.
Albon said: “I’m not too sure what happened with Q3 so we need tonight to sit down and look at it with the engineers. Q1 and Q2 felt ok and then everyone just seemed to make a jump in Q3 whereas we didn’t. It didn’t feel like we had much left in the car and my laps didn’t feel bad so there’s a bit of head scratching going on.
You can tidy up some things here and there to find a couple of tenths maybe but obviously the gap is quite big today so it’s confusing and we have work to do. There was a bit of spinning and track limits going on which I think was because the wind changed quite a lot from FP3 to qualifying so some people were getting caught out. We’ll do our homework tonight so we have a better day tomorrow. It’s a long run to Turn One and anything can happen so let’s see what we can do.”
Team Principal Christian Horner did not expect to be on the front row this weekend but finds it just as satisfying as Verstappen to get a car in second place.
Horner does praise Albon for getting himself into Q3 and is looking forward to seeing him overtake the field tomorrow.
“We certainly didn’t expect to be on the front row coming into the weekend as Sochi has always been one of our weaker tracks, so it is very satisfying to be able to split the two Mercedes today. Max played it very smart in the final lap of Q3.” Said Horner.
“He waited for Bottas to finish his lap and then got a tow from him all the way down from Turn One to Turn Two, meaning he was already a tenth up at the exit of Turn Two. He then had to get the rest of the lap spot on, which he did and P2 was a phenomenal result with arguably one of the best laps he’s driven this season.
“Alex did a good job to get himself comfortably into Q3 and then unfortunately he was just at the wrong end of the group at the end of the session. It was so tight out there that a couple of tenths would have made things look very different for him, but we have a good race car and we all know he can overtake, so we will definitely see some action from him tomorrow.”