Verstappen reveals key error that cost him pole
Max Verstappen was left ruing a different tire preparation lap before his crucial final Q3 lap that he believes cost him pole position to Charles Leclerc for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Leclerc were neck and neck after their first laps but the Ferrari driver pulled away with his second attempt to seal top spot by 0.188s. The difference all came from the second sector, in particular from the exit of the castle section at the top of the hill and the long run down to Turn 15, what is effectively the penultimate corner.
It’s the first pole position of the season for a team other than Red Bull Racing, but rather than it signifying a swing in momentum or even a setup error, Verstappen put the loss of top spot down to a misjudgment preparing his tires for his final lap.
“It’s tough to put the whole lap together round here and also the last run in Q3 was maybe not as clean, because we also tried a different out-lap and I didn’t really feel it was better,” he said. “When you have that feeling already then you’re not as confident as the lap before. I think that’s also why the lap time didn’t really come out of it.”
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Verstappen said he overheated the Pirelli soft compound, a mistake triggered in part by the lack of practice time under the sprint format.
“We just tried to put a bit more temperature in them,” he said. “After FP1 I think sometimes you are not fully understanding what you want to do for qualifying.
“The first one was good but still not perfect, so we tried a bit of work and it looks amazing; that’s a bit what happened in Australia, but this time I guess it didn’t work.”
Verstappen doesn’t consider the front-row start any great loss, however, noting that the RB19 has been habitually better in racing conditions than in qualifying, a trend he says was borne out in the practice data.
“At the end of the day it’s also not really bad for us,” he said. “We have a really good race car but it has never been super dominant over a single lap. I felt quite good with the little long run we did and I think we will learn a little bit more tomorrow during the sprint qualifying and race, which probably gives you even more of an idea for Sunday.”
“We know we have a quick race car and we have to try and use that on Sunday. We all know the points are on Sunday, so I don’t mind being a bit slower on Saturday and quick on Sunday — or whatever with the formats now. Can I still say that? Sunday? Saturday?”
Teammate Sergio Perez said he also had trouble judging tire warm-up on his way to third on the grid, though he appeared struggle with rubber that was too cold judging by a snap of oversteer through Turn 3 on his final lap.
“Just to get through without making mistakes, without much practice, it was really challenging,” he said. “I’m a bit disappointed to be sitting P3 — I felt definitely there was more in it; my lap wasn’t that clean. But if there a place where you can race, it’s definitely here.”