'Something is not working' – Verstappen at a loss to explain Red Bull's dip in form in Hungary
Red Bull were the second-best team last time out in Austria, and had been expected to challenge Mercedes for the top honours at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. But they simply weren’t at the races in qualifying, with Max Verstappen at a loss to explain what is going wrong.
The Dutchman ended up seventh quickest, 0.647s adrift of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton at the Hungaroring, while his team mate Alexander Albon failed to make it into Q3 after errors on his opening lap and traffic on his second run.
It came after they were left disappointed by their Friday practice form, with the drivers admitting they had plenty of work to do with their unpredictable car. And despite the team breaking curfew on Friday night to make set-up changes, both were struggling with the balance in qualifying.
“Clearly something is not working,” said Verstappen. “The whole week has been really tricky and it’s hard to understand. We tried a lot of things but it still doesn’t really work, so yeah of course a disappointing qualifying.”
He added: “We just don’t have a good balance and are not having a lot of top speed as well. Everything together just makes it slow.
You push it [the car] to the limit but when you get to that limit it becomes a bit tricky and easy to lose the rear or you understeer wide
“If we would have understood [the problem] we would have made it better, so something is clearly wrong. We’re still looking into it. I don’t think it’s set-up related.”
The car has looked tricky to drive from winter testing onwards, with Verstappen spinning a number of times, including in this morning's practice session.
“You push it [the car] to the limit but when you get to that limit it becomes a bit tricky and easy to lose the rear or you understeer wide,” he explained.
Looking ahead to the race, Verstappen is predicting a difficult afternoon, not least because it is traditionally hard to overtake at the Hungaroring, while he is starting on the less durable soft tyres while both Mercedes and both Racing Points will be able to run longer on the mediums, as will those outside the top 10 who will opt for the more durable compound.
“We just need to see what we can do,” said Verstappen. “It’s going to be close I think. Of course I’m starting on softs and some behind me will be on mediums. It will be quite interesting what we can do on strategy.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen hit back at George Russell after the Williams driver spoke up in defence on his friend and rival – and Verstappen's Red Bull team mate – Alex Albon, who was knocked out in Q3 and qualified a lowly 13th after a difficult session.
“I feel really bad for him because he’s being made to look like an idiot and he’s absolutely not," Russell said. "He’s won in everything he’s done, so I don’t know what is going on but they need to sort it out for him.”
But Verstappen insisted Russell should concentrate on his own performances, rather than worrying about what Red Bull are doing.
"George doesn’t know anything about the team, so I think it’s better he focuses on his team rather than speaking about someone else," he said.