P6 ‘makes Sunday a bit more fun’ says Verstappen after costly mistakes in Austin qualifying
Max Verstappen hasn't made many errors this season, with the Dutchman normally in imperious form, but not one but two mistakes on his final flying lap in qualifying cost the Red Bull man in Austin. As a result he will have to start Sunday’s United States Grand Prix from an unfamiliar sixth position.
It had all started so well for the newly-crowned world champion, Verstappen topping the only practice session and looking well placed to score pole position. He looked comfortable in both Q1 and Q2, before being pipped on the initial flying runs in Q3 by a very dialled in Charles Leclerc.
With it all to do on the final runs, Verstappen locked up into Turn 1, which sent him fractionally wide. Knowing from there he was chasing to make up for those lost fractions, he threw his RB19 around the final corner, and just slid wide.
“I mean I knew in [Turn] 19 it was going to be a close call,” he said afterwards. “I had a little mistake in Turn 1, I had to really push for it in the rest of the lap... Honestly, I didn’t even steer, I just tried to maximise the corner and I misjudged it by a little bit, it’s very fine margins when you are pushing to the limit. It makes the Sunday a bit more fun!”
That last lap time was 0.005s quicker than Leclerc’s pole lap, but the stewards were swift to delete it from the record books for track limit infringements, leaving the Dutchman down in sixth place.
It’s not close to his lowest starting slot of the season – he was 15th in Saudi Arabia, ninth in Miami and 11th recently in Singapore. But in those races, such has been his dominance this year Verstappen came home second, first and fifth. And with the world championship already secured, Verstappen clearly wasn’t too concerned about how the Grand Prix might pan out.
“I mean it’s probably not ideal, but I’ve also started further back and it’s all about if you have good pace, you will pass, you will move forward. We want to win so of course today was not ideal but it’s still a long race, a lot of things we can do better and have a bit of fun out there as well.”
As for Sergio Perez, he has prepared for this race by spending three days in the Red Bull simulator, trying to understand what’s been going wrong with his set up choices while working out how best to extract more pace from the obviously quick RB19.
He looked quick in parts during qualifying, before fading in Q3 to wind up ninth, and admitted that he was “struggling” with the balance of the car.
“It wasn’t a straightforward one,” said the Mexican. “We did some changes that probably didn’t help us so much, but the margins were so tight today that a tenth will have looked so much different in the qualifying. But we are the wrong side of it, hopefully tomorrow we can have a better Shootout and get some points.”