Max Verstappen reckons he could have been higher up the grid for Sunday's German Grand Prix had it not been for a brush with one of Hockenheim's new kerbs.
The Dutchman, having learned the circuit at the wheel of an F1 car for the first time on Friday, established himself as a threat for the second row of the grid hrough third practice and the early stages of qualifying, but ultimately had to settle for fourth overall as a small mistake proved enough for Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to snatch the upper hand in the pursuit of Mercedes.
RESULTS: German Grand Prix – Qualifying results
“I am very happy because I think it was a very good qualifying and, also for me, the first time on this track with a F1 car, I think we did a good job,” the teenager reflected, “It is just a shame that, in the last sector, I ran over the sausage kerb and lost a lot of time between the last two corners.
“Even on my own lap time, the previous one, I lost one-and-a-half tenths there as I washed out as soon as I bottomed out on the kerb. But it is all right.... I am happy, the team is very happy. We locked out the second row, and that is our main target.”
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With Mercedes again annexing the front row, albeit by a smaller margin that it enjoyed in Friday practice, Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo look set to battle over the final podium spot, possibly with the third row Ferraris in the mix as well, but the youngster is hoping for a less contentious afternoon than he had in similar circumstances in Hungary a week ago.
“Hopefully, we don't need to cover like we had to do in Hungary, where we lost out,” he noted, “In Hungary, qualifying was everything, a bit like Monaco, but here, definitely on lap one, you have a chance and, even after that, if you have good pace, you can follow. Hopefully, we can follow the Mercedes cars and try to push them….”
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Ricciardo was adamant that Red Bull's race pace would be closer to that of its rivals than it's low fuel times had been on Friday, and Verstappen echoed the Australian's optimism despite acknowledging that the Silver Arrows would start round twelve of the world championship as hot favourite to add to its run of victories
“I think we are definitely in a good way,” the Dutchman claimed, “Hopefully now, in the race, we have good pace again like we had on Friday, and then we will see what happens. It is clear that you can see one team is, of course, the strongest, and then it is pretty clear what is behind – it is Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, and then it gets a bit mixed up sometimes.
“The top three is pretty clear but, on this track, where we did not expect to be that close, we were quite close, so we can definitely be pleased with this qualifying because, even though we were in front of the Ferrari quite comfortably, that was very important for us. It all looked very promising [on Friday] so, hopefully, we can have the same balance in the car tomorrow. We'll see, but it will be an interesting race.”