Looking to build on the momentum of his brilliant victory last time out at Imola, the Red Bull driver was frustrated to have only ended up third in qualifying in Portugal and behind both Mercedes.

Verstappen fumed that traffic had cost him a shot of pole but he had already blown a great opportunity himself by making a costly error as he ran wide as he attempted to catch a tankslapper at Turn 4 on his first run of Q3. 

The Dutchman briefly shot onto provisional pole with a time that would have ended up being good enough to top qualifying, but his lap was deleted for his track limits infringement. 

While Verstappen was able to salvage P3 despite encountering Lando Norris’ McLaren and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel on his final attempt, he revealed he hasn’t felt comfortable all weekend in Portimao. 

“It’s been a bit hit-and-miss the whole weekend,” Verstappen explained. “We are struggling a lot to find a balance and I didn’t enjoy one single lap this weekend, just because of the state of the track.

“The layout is amazing but the grip we are experiencing, I don’t think is nice. I know it’s the same for everyone but for me personally, it’s just not enjoyable to drive.

“I started off in qualifying really, really slow. I just had no balance in the car. We slowly got to a point where I was happier, but it was basically just compromising one thing and then also losing a bit of performance in the other thing. It was just not nice.

“Then I had my little moment at Turn 4 in the first run in Q3. In the end that was a fastest lap but it just showed that it was a really difficult session to get any kind of grip because that corner is flat and suddenly out of the blue the car just snapped on me and I ran a bit wide.

“I thought I can do that lap again, so I go out and I was within a tenth of the lap, and then in the last sector I lost all my lap time with an Aston Martin in front, and then taking my tow on the line as well. It was messy, but it is what it is.” 

Verstappen ultimately believes the decision to re-surface the track last year with low-grip asphalt has diminished the enjoyment factor of driving around what he had previously considered to be one of his “top three” circuits.

Asked if he was surprised by the lack of grip, Verstappen replied: “No, because I checked the MotoGP times and they were the same already. 

“I know of course they have a little bit of a different front tyre, but in general it’s just poor. I remember coming here last year before the grand prix and it was one of my top three favourite tracks. But then they changed the tarmac and, for me, I don’t enjoy it anymore.”

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the Turkish Grand Prix would replace the cancelled Canada round in June at Istanbul Park, which faced criticism from the drivers last year after being resurfaced shortly before the race. 

And it’s safe to say that Verstappen isn’t looking forward to returning to Turkey next month. 

“I don’t even want to think about Turkey,” he said. “Probably that will be even worse!”

Verstappen wasn’t alone in his gripes about the low-grip conditions, with a number of drivers unusually managing quicker times earlier in the day than they did in Q3. 

Hamilton’s stunning 1m17.968s effort on Medium tyres in Q2 ended up being the outright fastest time of qualifying, but he was unable to repeat it when it mattered most in the shootout for pole. 

The seven-time world champion was also left bemused by the recent decisions to repave track surfaces.

“I don’t really understand what they do to make it worse, but Turkey used to have good grip and obviously the last time we went there we had none,” he said. 

“We’re finding we’re going to more and more circuits that seem to be changing the tarmac they’re using. It’s not that great when we’re struggling for grip. 

“That means it is harder to follow, and has that knock-on effect. We’ll ask for the good stuff back right?”

Although Esteban Ocon starred to claim a breakthrough qualifying result for Alpine in sixth, the Frenchman was another driver who felt he didn’t get the most out of his car in the tricky conditions. 

Ocon’s FP3 time would have been good enough to put him fourth on the grid in qualifying, while his Q2 lap was also better than what he eventually managed in Q3.

“The car was more tricky to drive in qualifying than FP3,” he explained. 

“I’m a bit disappointed with being sixth, I think fifth was possible today. The great lap was the Q2 one. The Q2, if I had that lap time in Q3 it would have been a different story but for everyone the conditions were tougher. 

“The Q3 conditions were very, very difficult and I almost went off into Turn 1 on the first run of Q3, so it was a little bit of resetting and getting back to it, but overall a decent lap.”

Meanwhile, polesitter Valtteri Bottas, who so often excels in low-grip conditions, added: “I really like the layout, I think it’s cool. I always like elevation changes, it brings a different character to the track, all types of different corners, so that’s good. 

“But it is extremely low grip. It makes it more tricky and a bit less enjoyable than if it would be a grippy tarmac. But it’s the same tarmac for everyone, so let’s try to make the most out of it.”