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‘Like driving on ice’ – Verstappen admits P4 grid slot ‘not ideal’ after challenging Sprint Qualifying in China

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares

Max Verstappen endured a difficult final segment of Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix, with the Dutchman ending the session in P4 after having more than one off-track moment as he struggled with the slippery track conditions.

Verstappen had entered SQ3 off the back of a good SQ2, in which he had topped the timesheets. However, the rain that had started in the second segment increased in the final eight minutes of Sprint Qualifying, and Verstappen was amongst the drivers to go wide on the damp Shanghai International Circuit.

READ MORE: Norris claims pole ahead of Hamilton during frenetic wet Sprint Qualifying in China

After having a couple of lap times deleted for exceeding track limits, the Red Bull driver ultimately ended the session in fourth place but admitted afterwards that the position was “deserved” given the difficulties he had faced.

“It was incredibly slippery,” commented Verstappen. "I just struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tyres, so that’s why it was just very difficult to keep the car on track and it never really switched on for me, so it was just like driving on ice.

‘It was like driving on ice’ – Verstappen struggling for grip in Shanghai Sprint Qualifying

“That’s why also I think it’s quite deserved where we are in qualifying – it was just not really working for me in the wet, even though in the dry I think we looked quite good, so I’m of course quite happy with that.”

Despite his tough end to qualifying, Verstappen will still line up towards the front of the pack in P4 for Saturday’s Sprint. Asked if he felt there were opportunities ahead in the 100-kilometre race, the world champion answered: “Yeah, for sure. It’s not ideal to start on the inside here.

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix

“There’s a lot lower grip left to right with this painted stuff on the tarmac, so we have to try and have the best start possible, and then of course I think it’s going to be quite a long stint on one set of tyres in the Sprint, but that makes it quite interesting.”

On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Sergio Perez had looked strong in the early stages of Sprint Qualifying, having set the pace from Verstappen in SQ1. The Mexican struggled more as the conditions changed, though, and ended the day in P6.

‘Things were looking great… initially’ – Perez explains last corner mistake cost him in Sprint Qualifying

Reflecting on SQ3, Perez said: “Things were looking great initially, then with the traffic with the back-off people were doing, we were onto a good final lap, and unfortunately I just couldn’t do the final corner. It was so tricky to get through the final corner and that meant that I went off.”

Given that he had appeared comfortable with the RB20 earlier on, Perez is still hopeful about what he can achieve in the first Sprint of the 2024 season.

READ MORE: Perez optimistic of remaining with Red Bull beyond 2024 as Verstappen praises ‘logical’ Sprint tweaks in Shanghai

“I think we are in a good place,” he added. “We’ve been confident straightaway. I’m in a good moment with the car, so in any conditions I think we can be competitive from now on, so that’s all very promising.”

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