The reigning world champion was in contention for pole but made a key error at Turn 5 and ran wide on his final lap of qualifying, leaving him third on the grid and 0.195s down on his main title rival. 

Verstappen swore on the radio as he realised he had thrown away his chance to retaliate and challenge Leclerc for pole. 

“A bit of a weird moment to lose the car but again it’s just not really knowing the limits I guess and just trying a bit more, and then it snapped suddenly in Turn 5,” he explained. 

“I tried to keep it on the road but it didn’t really work, so I aborted. I tried to stay out of the way of the cars behind me, but a bit odd, the way it snapped. But these things can happen.” 

Red Bull's disrupted start hurts Verstappen

The Dutchman insisted he was surprised to even be on the second row after a disrupted start to the weekend, with reliability issues for Red Bull restricting him to just five laps of running throughout Friday practice. 

"Overall I am pretty pleased with qualifying,” he said directly after qualifying in parc ferme. “Literally I did four or five laps yesterday so today I was still trying to learn the track and trying to find a decent balance in the car. To be that competitive in qualifying, I was a bit surprised. 

"This is not an easy track to learn. Of course you want to be on pole, but where we came from I think we did a really good job. We have to start making the weekends a little less difficult.

"We have a good chance tomorrow. We have a bit of speed. The car is handling quite well. I'm looking forward to that.”

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Asked to elaborate on his ‘difficult’ comment in the post-qualifying press conference, Verstappen said: “Like I said before, I’ve only done four or five laps yesterday and you cannot afford that on a new track like this and a street circuit in general, because it’s very critical to just do laps and get in a rhythm. 

“On a normal track it is quite easy to get into a rhythm. On a street circuit it’s a lot more difficult and we basically failed on that side. Of course, in general, we are experienced enough to catch up on a lot of it, but to really fight, especially against a strong team like that, you cannot afford it. 

“We still got close, but I think we could have done a much better job today if we had a cleaner Friday.”