Max Verstappen is looking to put the disappointment of finishing behind title rival Lewis Hamilton in last weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix behind him this weekend in the first ever Qatar Grand Prix.
The Red Bull Racing driver led for the first part of the race in Brazil but was overhauled by Hamilton, with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer then going on to dominate until the chequered flag.
The gap at the top of the Drivers’ Championship has reduced to just fourteen points with three races remaining, but Verstappen remains confident that he can fight back against Hamilton and Mercedes across those remaining races.
“Yes, it was a tough weekend, in general we were a little bit off pace to Mercedes but nevertheless we only lost a couple of points so it’s not too bad,” said Verstappen. “Of course I would always like to win but we had a good battle and to come home in second is okay.
“We’ve got three races to go so it’s all about pushing and doing everything we can as a Team to maximise performance on track.”
It will be Verstappen’s first time racing around the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, but he excited by the prospect of racing at a new track, although he does not know how competitive Red Bull will be this weekend.
“I think I’ve only been to Qatar once for a prize giving so I’m looking forward to going back,” said the Dutchman. “It’s a new track and we’ve obviously never been there so I’m excited to see how it’s going to be driving the track, hopefully we can perform well there. It always looks cool when we see Moto GP race there!
“It’s hard to say at the moment but let’s see when we get there. I’ve driven it a little bit on the simulator to understand the corners but it will be good to see the track in real life.
“The practice sessions will of course be very important for everyone to get up to speed and understand the car set up.”
“I just need to move on and look to Qatar” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez felt he was unlucky not to continue his run of podiums last weekend in Brazil, with the Mexican losing out to Valtteri Bottas thanks to the ill-timing of a virtual safety car period that allowed the Finn to jump ahead of him.
Despite the disappointment, Pérez says there is no point in dwelling about it, and he will be focused on returning to the top three this weekend in Qatar.
“We were very unlucky on Sunday to miss the podium, it was basically just down to bad luck,” said Pérez. “But this is racing, and these things happen so there is no point dwelling on it, I just need to move on and look to Qatar and getting back on the podium there.
“I think we will do a deep analysis as a Team and Qatar is going to be a very different track to Sao Paulo so things will change. Hopefully we can be a lot stronger there, across the whole weekend. For me also, it is nice to be back to the normal qualifying format to see how we line up in terms of outright pace.”
Pérez is one of a handful of drivers on the grid to have previous experience of the Losail International Circuit, but he does not think that experience will benefit him as it was all the way back in 2009 when he last competed at the Qatari track.
He does believe, however, that Red Bull should be competitive in Qatar, and he is looking forward to resuming the tight battle Red Bull are having with Mercedes this weekend.
“I think we will be competitive over there and hopefully give them a hard time,” said the Mexican. “It is a really fast track, with a lot of downforce required so we will see how quick we can be.
“I don’t remember driving there very well, it was a long time ago so I don’t believe there is much advantage for me! There are three races remaining of the season and still so much to play for. Brazil was a very fun race so let’s hope for the same this weekend.”