Max Verstappen was pleased with the progress Red Bull has made since last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix as it enjoyed its strongest Formula 1 qualifying performance of the season at the Tuscan Grand Prix.

Verstappen was within four-tenths of Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time at Mugello, the closest the Dutchman has been to pole this season with Red Bull team-mate Alexander Albon in fourth place.

Verstappen managed to split the Mercedes in final practice but admitted he knew Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas would be out of reach come qualifying.

"From my side, I always expected to be third, because sometimes it just feels like they’re [Mercedes] not on the limit in FP2, FP3, there is a lot of margin in what they use on the track, so I always expected in qualifying they would ramp it up when they needed to go to the limit," Verstappen said.

"I’ve been always trying to push Mercedes a bit, so I was always confident about that. Of course coming from Monza, this was a lot better. I always expected it to be better than Monza of course, I think Monza was just the worst track for us. Everything is just not good, low downforce, long straights it’s not what we like, but I’m pleased to be third."

Verstappen was consistently fastest of anyone in the final sector and he’s hopeful he can make the most of Red Bull’s "decent top speed" as he looks to overtake the Mercedes duo in Sunday’s race.

"For once we have quite decent top speed this year - so I think that's quite good around here, but it won't be easy to pass, " Verstappen added. "At least the track, the last few corners, they're a bit wide and long so you can do a few different lines.

"But it's all going to anyway depend on, firstly, if you have the pace to follow and second, of course, tyre degradation."



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