As expected, Uralkali Haas F1 Team’s rookie drivers failed to progress out of Q1 in qualifying and are right at the bottom of the grid, but Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin are pleased to see some improvements in the VF-21.
Schumacher, for the second third consecutive time in 2021, out-qualified his team-mate, beating his fellow rookie driver by four-tenths. However, it wasn’t enough for the German to challenge for a spot in Q2 and starts nineteenth on the grid on Sunday.
Last year’s FIA Formula 2 champion admits he aimed for a better result after positive showings in the free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday.
“Looking at all the free practices I think we were set for higher, but I think some of the other guys and teams managed to make a step ahead with their second set and frankly we didn’t,” Schumacher said.
“It could be anything on this track – you get the wrong gust of wind at the wrong moment; you lose half a second in the first sector.”
Despite being stricken to the last row on the gird, once again, the German driver says he’s feeling more comfortable in the VF-21 after a difficult opening two Grand Prix’s in Bahrain and Imola.
“I think in general we can be happy, we’re still making consistent steps forward with each race weekend. There’s a big improvement in ourselves and we should be happy with that. I’m feeling more comfortable in the car with every hour and every day, and that makes it easier for me to jump into the car straight away and be on the pace.
“That’s something that’s very positive and I’m grateful for the team for teaching me the necessaries to do that.”
“The car was feeling much better” – Nikita Mazepin
Unlike his team-mate, Mazepin has struggled to handle the Haas car so far, and today’s qualifying session shows no different.
The rookie driver also found himself eliminated in Q1 and, not for the first time in 2021, was the slowest on the grid with a lap time of 1:20.452, over two seconds the fastest time set by Valtteri Bottas in the first session.
Despite suffering another disappointing Saturday, Mazepin felt the car was feeling much better around the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
“I felt like yesterday was a very difficult day for me as I just wasn’t very comfortable with the track or with the car,” Mazepin said. “We then made small steps in the right direction this morning – which I like to see, they’re the ones that build foundation.
“Obviously, the wind has picked up here, which was something I didn’t want to happen as no driver likes wind as it makes the car balance very unpredictable, but the grip has improved since yesterday naturally with all the laps being put down.
“Overall, the car was feeling much better and I think that’s a good place to be – we were quite close to getting the maximum out of it.”