Max Verstappen says he was not surprised to once again find himself behind the Mercedes duo in qualifying for Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix, though he remains hopeful of putting in a victory challenge in the race.

The Red Bull driver looked a threat to Mercedes throughout practice and sat a provisional second following the first runs of Q3 but he ultimately was knocked back to his customary third place after Valtteri Bottas improved late on.

Despite ending up 0.414s adrift of pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and less than two tenths behind Bottas, Verstappen remained positive about Red Bull’s performance in Bahrain.

“You always want more but its more positive just to stay realistic and work on getting the little things right,” he said.

"Of course there’s still some work to do but overall, I think the weekend in general was pretty positive, just lacking a little too much in qualifying.

“I don’t know why that was and we of course have to find out but first of all we will see what we can do tomorrow. It’s quite aggressive on tyres here so hopefully it will be quite an interesting race.”

Asked if he was surprised by the gap to Mercedes, Verstappen replied: “No not really.

“We are obviously pushing hard to close it but we also know there are some weaknesses in the car we can’t fix this year, so we have to wait until next year.

“Of course I would have liked to be closer but we are just learning about this car. We know we have to make some changes for next year and we will try to put it all together for next year and hopefully then we will be closer.”



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