Max Verstappen may have missed out on pole position for the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday, but the Dutchman felt it was a good day around the Nürburgring for him and for his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team.
Verstappen had been fastest in Q2 on Saturday afternoon but was unable to translate that pace into Q3, with the twenty-three-year-old falling the behind Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Never-the-less, Verstappen was pleased with his day’s work, particularly as everyone was making up for lost time on Saturday morning due to both Friday sessions being cancelled due to the weather in Germany.
“Today has been a good day and we can be happy to be on the second row of the grid,” said Verstappen. “It was an interesting qualifying and after missing both practice sessions yesterday, it was busy for everyone today but overall, I think it was positive.
“The car has been handling well and everything is a bit more stable. I felt quite comfortable but of course there are always a few balance areas you want to improve. In Q3 when it really mattered, I just started to understeer a bit too much and when it’s so cold, you grain the front tyres and just eat up the rubber so that cost me a bit of lap time.”
Verstappen believes Red Bull are continuing to close the gap to Mercedes at the front of the field, and with their pace often stronger on Sunday’s, it gives him hope that they can fight for the win this weekend.
“I think we are closing in on Mercedes which is positive and what we’re working towards,” insisted the Dutchman. “We are usually closer to them on Sundays and tomorrow it will be even colder so it will be interesting to see what the tyres do and how they’re going to behave.
“It’s a fun track to drive and tomorrow is a bit of a question mark for everyone but hopefully it is going to be exciting.”
“I’m quite happy with my qualifying lap but there are still areas to improve” – Alexander Albon
Team-mate Alexander Albon will start fifth on the grid but was more than half a second down on Verstappen when it mattered, although he was ‘quite happy’ with his final Qualifying lap.
The Thai driver was fourth until the closing moments before Charles Leclerc stole away his position on the second row, with Albon ending just 0.012 seconds behind the Monegasque driver.
Albon felt there are still areas to improve, particularly as he was 0.485 seconds behind Verstappen, but he hopes to be able to convert that into a strong result despite being amongst a tight midfield battle that involves Scuderia Ferrari, the Renault DP World F1 Team and the McLaren F1 Team.
“I’m quite happy with my qualifying lap but there are still areas to improve,” said Albon. “Even though we haven’t had much time to practice, straight away the car was feeling hooked up.
“I’ve been enjoying this two-day format, it feels like F2 and F3. Obviously it would have been nice to have been in front of Charles, he did a good lap, but we got pipped right at the end. P5 is not a bad place to start and we can fight from there.
“We obviously have the two Renaults behind us so it won’t be easy, we’ll have to get our elbows out for Turn One! The real challenge will be when we start the long runs as we haven’t had much practice for that.
“We’ll see how it goes with the weather and there are plenty of opportunities to score some good points.”
“It is obviously encouraging to see our gap to Mercedes decreasing” – Christian Horner
Christian Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull, says third and fifth on the grid will give the team many opportunities on Sunday, and he says it is ‘game on’ for the win against Bottas and Hamilton.
Horner was pleased with how Red Bull reacted to missing out on all track action on Friday to place both cars inside the top five, and he is encouraged that the Qualifying gap on to Mercedes appears to be decreasing almost every weekend.
“Lining up third and fifth with Max and Alex for tomorrow’s Eifel Grand Prix is a solid result which provides us with opportunities for the race,” said Horner. “After losing all three hours of track action yesterday due to the poor weather, it was important to hit the ground running today, especially in these cold and tricky conditions, but Max and Alex were right there come qualifying.
“It is obviously encouraging to see our gap to Mercedes decreasing on Saturdays and the factory have been working hard to provide us with updates to bring to the track each weekend. Alex displayed another solid Saturday as he continues to better understand the car and it looked like a second row lockout had Leclerc not just pipped him at the very end of the session.
“It’s game on for tomorrow as both drivers aim to take the fight to Mercedes in what look like challenging weather conditions.”