Max Verstappen says the lap which split the two Mercedes in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix was one of the best in his Formula 1 career.

For only the second time in 2020, Verstappen will start Sunday’s race in Sochi from second on the grid after nicking ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the dying stages.

The Sochi Autodrom hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull over the years with zero podium finishes in Russia since it was introduced to the F1 calendar in 2014.

Verstappen looked to be in a fight with Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo for third on the grid but credited last-minute setup changes which allowed him to produce one of the best laps of his F1 career.

“Yeah I think so, it felt really good, like yeah,” Verstappen said. “Just try to find a right balance as I was actually struggling quite a bit through qualifying to nail the entry speeds as I was oversteering quite a lot, step by step I think we were doing a better job.

“Q3 run one was a bit better but then the second run made a few changes and that have me a little bit more grip and on this track you really need a lot of entry grip so yeah, that was very satisfying and it was a really nice lap to drive. I mean it’s not pole position but for me to be on the first row I definitely didn’t expect that going into qualifying.”

The Dutchman will start the race on the medium tyres with Bottas, while pole-sitter Hamilton will be starting on the less durable softs.

Despite starting on the better race tyre compared to Hamilton, Verstappen believes Mercedes has the edge when it comes to race pace.

“Yeah I think for us it’s the best way going into the race,” Verstappen added. “Of course I’m starting a bit on the dirty side so I’m not sure how much that’s going to affect it but overall I think the Mercedes guys are a bit faster in race pace so I’ll try my very best to stay with them and see what happens.

“But I’d like to have a good start, and by start I mean once I go full throttle to have full power would be nice, and then not get taken out, after two retirements I think it’s good to score some points again.”



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