Like at Interlagos, Verstappen was well beaten to pole by Hamilton with the gap at over 0.4s.

Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez failed to get out of Q2 meaning Verstappen will be left to fight the two Mercedes drivers by himself.

“I think we are just lacking a bit of pace,” Verstappen said after qualifying. “I think it’s been just a bit more tricky for us.

“In qualifying, you could already clearly see Checo is not even in Q3. So it just shows that we are definitely struggling a bit more than normal.

“But nevertheless, I mean, still second, so it’s all to play for of course. But I wish we could have fought for more.”

Assessing his final lap in Qatar, Verstappen felt his final effort in Q3 was a good lap despite it not being enough to get within four-tenths of Hamilton.

“It’s been a bit up and down, happy in FP1, then not so happy in FP2 and three, then I was actually happy in quali again but just not quick enough. That sometimes happens. There are a few corners where I would like to go faster, tried everything, just not a lot of extra pace coming.

“The last few races qualifying has been a bit more of a struggle for us so we definitely of course try and understand and try to be better like we always try and be.

“I thought I had a really good lap and then I heard the difference in lap time and I was a bit wow didn’t even need to risk it then if it was such a big gap, nevertheless had fun out there, qualifying has been cool, it’s a really beautiful track and a lot of fun to drive.”

Verstappen has a 14-point lead over Hamilton going into Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix.