‘It puts a big smile on my face’ – Verstappen revels in Dutch travelling support in Austria
He came into the weekend expecting a tough time of it but Max Verstappen got the grandstands at the Red Bull Ring jumping as he set the third-best time in qualifying for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
A good power unit offers a real benefit around Austria’s short 10-corner circuit and while Red Bull’s supplier Honda have made improvements this season, they remain adrift of Ferrari and Mercedes.
But on Saturday afternoon, buoyed by raucous support from his fans bedecked in orange, Verstappen outqualified one Mercedes and one Ferrari, and put his team mate Pierre Gasly firmly in the shade. And with Lewis Hamilton penalised three grid slots for blocking Kimi Raikkonen, Verstappen will start Sunday’s race on the front row alongside Charles Leclerc - his best starting slot since Mexico last year.
The support is great - it’s a good motivation to have and I can’t wait for tomorrow
“The support is great,” he said. “It puts a big smile on my face of course, it’s a good motivation to have and I can’t wait for tomorrow. Hopefully I can give them a great result.”
Red Bull brought a series of updates to Austria, their home race, and Verstappen was impressed –surprised even - with how well they performed.
“In general across the whole weekend, our performance has been much better,” he said. “I was actually not looking forward to qualifying because I knew that it was going to be hard but actually with the updates we brought to the car we had really good performance.
“The things we brought, they just gave me more grip in general. I didn’t really have a big problem before with a lot of oversteer or understeer, just not a lot of overall grip. I think that seems to be improved again and that’s very positive.
“I was really happy with the car throughout qualifying and in the corners as well we were very competitive. We do know that we are lacking quite a bit of pace compared to Ferrari and Mercedes on the straights but knowing that this is not a great track for us, so a great result for qualifying.”
Verstappen won last year’s Austrian Grand Prix from fourth. If he can replicate that from two spots higher on the grid, those orange-clad stands will erupt once more…