Verstappen rues Q3 mistake that cost him shot at pole

Max Verstappen says that he should have been challenging for pole position for the German Grand Prix, if not for a mistake during the final round of Saturday’s qualifying session.

“I started relatively conservatively in Q1,” he said after qualifying. “Then somehow for my feeling towards Q3 I felt we were losing a bit of grip.

“In Q1 you always take your margins, but somehow in Q3 I just never really had the grip like I had in Q1,” he elaborated. “Of course it was getting warmer. Seemed like it was hurting me maybe even more at the time.

“We could have been closer – I wouldn’t say we could have gotten pole – but I went wide [at turn 8] and bottomed out, and lost the rear,” he added.

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It meant that Verstappen ended up 0.346s slower than the pole time set by Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, putting him on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Neither Ferrari featured in the final round of qualifying, with Sebastian Vettel sidelined with a turbo issue at the start the session and team mate Charles Leclerc hit by a separate fuel system issue before Q3.

With a potential open goal, Verstappen was disappointed not to make greater use of the opportunity and by claiming the team’s first pole since Mexico 2018.

Verstappen himself has never managed to come out top in qualifying, although he has lined up in second place on the grid on six occasions.

“Of course I am happy with P2,” he insisted. “I am happy to start from the front row, and anything is possible tomorrow.”

Verstappen certainly wasn’t lacking in support from legions of orange-clad supporters in the grandstands at Hockenheim. “It’s great to see so many Dutch fans here!” he smiled.

At one point it looked like those fans were set for heart break when Verstappen reported a loss of power down the straight at the start of Q2, in a situation eerily similar to Vettel’s problems in Q1.

“I tried a different mode for that run,” he reported. “But as soon as I crossed the start-finish line, somehow it just cut out, lost a bit of power.

“You know your lap is ruined, so I backed off,” he said, adding that he had returned to pit lane to have the car looked over. “I went into the boxes, just to check everything, and we went out again.”

“There was a problem with the PU settings when we tried a different mode in Q2, which did not work,” confirmed Honda F1 racing director Toyoharu Tanabe. “We must say sorry to Max.”

The team was soon able to get the RB15 back out in time for him to set a flying lap good enough to put him into Q3, although it will mean he starts tomorrow’s race on soft compound tyres while his main rivals will be on mediums.

“Of course I had to use the other tyres, which was a little bit of a shame because I wanted to try and do the same as the other guys did.”

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The soft tyres could give Verstappen the edge at the start of the race, but their shorter life may force his hand when it comes to strategy.

“But that’s how it is, and we just have to live with that. Second run in Q2 and then Q3, there was no problem.”

Even once he was back out on track, Verstappen reported experiencing the same ‘turbo lag’ that he experienced last time out in Silverstone.

“I don’t know if it’s exactly the same, but in the car it feels pretty similar,” he confirmed. “They’re all working hard, of course, to try and get on top of it.

“I think in Q3 honestly it was fine, and that’s when it matters, of course.”

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