Verstappen rues ‘terrible’ Sprint Shootout lap as Perez praises ‘fast and furious’ format
Max Verstappen was left to ponder what might have been after F1’s first-ever Sprint Shootout at the Baku City Circuit, with a compromised qualifying session leaving the reigning world champion third on the grid for the Sprint race.
After being beaten to pole position for the Grand Prix by Charles Leclerc on Friday, Verstappen trailed both his Ferrari rival and Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez in the shootout, with his first SQ3 lap on fresh soft tyres undone by a “terrible” middle sector.
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“I think everything was going quite well, I think the pace was good,” began Verstappen, as he reflected on the session. “But in Q3 in the first run on the soft, I had a big moment in [Turn] 5, 6 and because of that the tyres were really hot, and then I also had a moment in 7.
“On the peak lap, with the most grip, we had a terrible sector two, so that was not fantastic. We managed to do another lap, which not many other people seemed to be able to pull out. I think the pace is good, it’s just a bit unfortunate to be P3.”
As for what lies ahead in the 17-lap dash later this afternoon, the Dutchman added: “With this heat, and how the tyres are behaving, I think it’s not going to be a straightforward Sprint. Some tracks you can just set off and it’s fine. Here, maybe a bit of tyre management comes into play, so there’s still all to fight for.”
Having qualified third for the Grand Prix, Perez managed to take advantage of Verstappen’s dramas to join Leclerc on the front row for the Sprint – narrowly missing out on pole after the Monegasque’s late crash.
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“I think the track was obviously very different,” he commented. “Just getting set on the softs was pretty challenging, getting a read on the medium tyre as well. It was a tricky session in the end; I think just having a little bit more of a clean run on my lap would have helped me, probably to get pole, with Charles hitting the wall.
“They [Ferrari] are just a bit stronger than us over one lap, but hopefully this afternoon we are able to close the gap and beat them on race pace. [Victory] will be the target – for this afternoon and also for tomorrow.”
Ending with his thoughts on the revised F1 Sprint format, Perez said: “Yeah, it was fast and furious! It won’t be long before they put a ring on the middle of the track and put all the drivers together to fight. It was enjoyable out there.”