Max Verstappen says Red Bull simply cannot fight Formula 1 rivals Ferrari after losing “over a second” on the straights during Russian Grand Prix qualifying.

Verstappen had topped second practice on Friday for Red Bull and set the fourth-fastest time in qualifying to outpace Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, but ended up some 0.682s down Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc’s pole position effort.

“There was not much more we could do, we are just losing too much time on the straights compared to Ferrari,” the Dutchman explained.

“Yesterday we were the same pace on the straights and today we lose over a second, so you can’t really fight like that in qualifying when the gap is that big on the straight.

“There are corners on this track but a second, it’s too much. It’s still six or seven tenths,” he added.

"From our side the final sector yesterday was very strong but today it was more windy and somehow it influenced us a bit more than others, like it has done in the past.

“Still, to split the two Mercedes cars is the best we could do today.”

Asked if he thinks everything Ferrari is doing is legal, Verstappen replied: “I’m not going to talk about that. That’s up to the FIA to look at.”

Verstappen is set to start Sunday’s Russian GP from ninth on the grid once his five-place grid penalty for taking on a new Honda power unit is applied.

"I think realistically P5, maybe P4,” Verstappen said when asked what he feels is possible in the race.

“We qualified P4 so if you have the pace then yes you can go forward but Ferrari is clearly too quick at the moment.

"Also Lewis [Hamilton] will start a bit further ahead and has a different strategy, so I don’t really expect to fight him.”