Max Verstappen admitted to being shocked to have been so far off Lewis Hamilton in Qualifying for the Qatar Grand Prix, but the Dutchman was pleased to see himself on the front row for Sunday’s race.
The Red Bull Racing driver ended 0.455 seconds back on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver under the floodlights around the Losail International Circuit on Saturday evening, and Verstappen admits it is extremely difficult at this stage of the season to match Hamilton’s speed.
Despite the pace deficit on Saturday, Verstappen knows Sunday’s race could be a different story, and he knows anything can happen, but he will never give up.
“It’s been a bit of an up and down weekend so far, I was happy in quali but just not quick enough,” said Verstappen. “I thought I had quite a decent lap but then heard the gap difference and I was a bit shocked, it’s been really difficult to match them.
“In a way I’m happy to be second but the gap to Lewis is very big. Qualifying has been more of a struggle for us over the past few races so we definitely need to have a look into it.
“I don’t expect miracles tomorrow but we are on a new track and a lot of things can happen, we never give up. It’s very quick around here so it will be difficult to follow, it also depends on what tyres we will be on and those around us. I’ll try to do the best I can, as always.”
“We didn’t put it together when it mattered” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez believed he had the pace to be near the front of the field in Qualifying, but the Mexican was a surprise elimination from Q2 on Saturday, leaving him only eleventh on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Pérez revealed that he went for a different approach to tyre preparation in the evening under the lights in Qatar, but ultimately, he did not get the kind of lap he was hoping for to take him into the top ten shootout.
Despite his elimination, Pérez believes he can make progress and bring himself into contention on Sunday evening, with a podium finish not unrealistic in a car that is showing good pace in the hands of team-mate Verstappen.
“It was a crazy qualifying for me, I think we have been there all weekend and after FP3 we were really confident with the changes we were making,” said Pérez. “We had everything in hand to really have a strong qualifying but we didn’t put it together when it mattered.
“We changed our approach with the tyre prep going into the evening conditions and we were not able to do the laps we wanted to, I hit a lot of traffic and going out in Q2 is the price we paid, we didn’t put it together when it mattered.
“We are a Team so we are all in it together, it is a shame we didn’t make it but we are looking forward to tomorrow now. I think without that issue the pace was in the car, we have been up there all weekend, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t have been there today and therefore can’t fight tomorrow.
“It has been a disappointing day but Sunday is what matters and hopefully we are able to recover and minimise the damage. We will try to make overtaking possibly here, I really hope that come race day we can be strong and come through the field to be in the mix for big points.”