Verstappen lacked confidence in final qualifying lap
By Mat Coch
Saturday 29th April, 2023 - 3:52am
A different tyre warm-up approach late in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix left Max Verstappen lacking confidence for his final lap.
The world championship leader will start Sunday’s race from second after being beaten to pole by Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen held provisional pole in the dying moments of the three-part session before his Ferrari rival shot to the top as the chequered flag waved.
“It’s not bad. I mean, it’s better than last,” he joked of his starting position for Sunday.
“It’s been alright; it’s just tough to put the whole lap together around here.
“Also, the last run in Q3 was maybe not the cleanest. We also tried a bit of a different out lap and didn’t really feel it was better.
“When you have that feeling already, then you are, in your lap, not as confident as the lap before.
“I think that’s why also the lap time didn’t really come out of it.”
Verstappen ran behind Leclerc on track and improved on his own personal best by 0.054s.
However, it wasn’t enough as Leclerc mustered a 1:40.203s.
Qualifying proved a protracted affair with two red flags during the first stanza.
That saw the end of the session pushed back by close to 30 minutes, leaving long shadows across the circuit as temperatures dropped.
To compensate, Verstappen adopted a different approach to generating tyre temperate for his last run.
“I was just trying to put a bit more temperature in them,” he said.
“I think sometimes you’re not fully understanding what you want to do in qualifying.
“The first one [lap in Q3] was good, but it was still not perfect, so we tried [something different].
“It could have worked, and then it looks amazing – that’s a bit what happened also in Australia – and this time, I guess it didn’t work, but it’s not the end of the world.”
While Red Bull has claimed all three prior pole positions in 2023, it has typically excelled in race conditions.
Leclerc believes Ferrari has made gains on that front, though that has done little to dent the confidence of Verstappen.
“We have a really good race car, I think, but it’s never really been super dominant over one lap,” Verstappen observed.
“I don’t know why that is. It was the same last year.
“Of course, it was also a bit down to being overweight, but then at one point, we started to trim that down, and it was still not our, let’s say, best day on Saturday.
“So sometimes it’s just the way the car works.
“But of course, we all know that the points are on Sunday, so I don’t mind if it’s a little bit slower [in qualifying] and quick on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, it’s also not really bad for us,” he added of his starting spot.
“We know that we have a quick race car, and we have to try and use that mainly on Sunday.
“But first, of course, we’ll wait and see what we can do tomorrow.”
Another qualifying session awaits on Saturday with the first-ever sprint shootout to determine the grid for the sprint.
That begins at 12:30 local time (18:30 AEST) ahead of the sprint at 17:30.
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