Max Verstappen feels his 0.067s gap to pole position during qualifying for Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix highlights the “really big step forward” made by Red Bull.

Verstappen will start Sunday’s US GP from third on the grid behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel after turning in a lap just 0.067s shy of Bottas’ pole position effort.

It followed on from his strong display during qualifying at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, in which the Dutchman set the fastest time of Q3 before being stripped of pole for failing to slow for yellow flags.

The fastest Red Bull was over a second off the pace during qualifying for last year’s race in Austin and Verstappen believes the team’s performance this time around shows the gains it has made.

“I think Q3 was a bit more of a difficult session than Q2 for example,” Verstappen explained.

“I found the grip was maybe not the same but of course that’s the same for everyone.

“It was just a bit harder to get your lap out and I think in general it is very positive for us to be that close in qualifying.

“Compared to last year we made a really big step forward and in the last two races we’ve been a lot more competitive, so that’s very positive.

“I think we are definitely improving and learning and also looking ahead for next year and we are definitely going in the right direction.

“In general I’m very pleased. The whole weekend has been smooth and we didn’t really have a lot of trouble with set-up or whatever, so to be here in the top three - of course I would like to be sat in the middle - but it’s still very positive.”

Verstappen was involved in a three-car wide moment at the end of Q2 with Lewis Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat as the trio diced for track position. The COTA stewards ultimately decided not to investigate the near-miss.

Asked about the incident, Verstappen replied: “We were all lining up to do our lap to get to the last corner and I think it was Seb in the first Ferrari then Charles and then I had Daniil [Kvyat] in front of me and we were all just slowing down to make space.

“Then Lewis just drove by like nobody was there and didn’t care. So I was like ‘well if you don’t care, I don’t care’ so I tried to get my position back because everybody is just respecting each other at that point just to start the lap, that’s why it was such a close call.”

 

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