Verstappen on front row but 'not fast enough for pole'

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B in qualifying parc ferme. 09.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul
© XPB 

Max Verstappen admitted that he was relieved to be starting tomorrow's Turkish Grand prix from the front row of the grid after struggling with the Red Bull's handling during Friday's practice session.

"At the beginning it was quite tricky with the conditions," he told Paul di Resta in parc ferme after the end of qualifying. "But I think compared to yesterday we actually managed to turn it around quite well."

Verstappen was third fastest at the end of Saturday afternoon's session, but will gain a place when Lewis Hamilton serves his ten place grid drop for taking a new engine.

Hamilton's Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas will start from pole, with Verstappen admitting that the Red Bull simply didn't have the pace to compete for the top spot today.

"There wasn't the lap time in it to fight for pole," he stated. "The laps overall were quite good, even though on the last lap I lost a little bit down the straights. We have to look into that.

"But overall I think it was quite a decent recovery compared to yesterday," he insisted. "Third is the maximum today, tomorrow lining up in second.

"Let's see how competitive we are going to be in the race," he continued, adding that he was pleased with the changes that Red Bull had made the car's set-up overnight which should make them more competitive in race trim on Sunday.

“The main problem I have is that I’m starting second so it’s on the inside," he told Sky Sports F1 later. "It’s very low grip, in the dry and in the wet compared to the outside, so I’ll probably already lose out there.

“So that’s not going to be ideal and, of course, overall we’re also lacking pace compared to them [Bottas and Hamilton] so I expect it to be quite difficult to fight them tomorrow.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the post qualifying FIA Press Conference. 09.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul

“Of course Lewis will have a bit of a harder job coming to the front," he said. "But I think it will still be quite difficult to keep him behind, with the pace they showed in qualifying and also in their long runs.”

“We’ll try everything we can of course," he concluded. "But we also need to stay realistic, and I don’t think there’s a lot you can force or change."

"Tyre wear seems quite high around this track but at least now the track is a lot of fun to drive, especially also the long left hander at turn 8. But we'll find out tomorrow.

"Let's wait to see what the weather will do overnight, but overall I'm pretty happy," he said. "I'll try to pick up as many points as we can."

Verstappen is currently two points behind Hamilton in the battle for the drivers championship. Last time out in Russia it was Verstappen on damage limitation after incurring his own grid penalty leaving him fighting his way forward from the back row of the grid.

Hamilton won't have that far to come back - he'll line-up in 11th on the grid in Istanbul Park - while Verstappen will be hoping to made an early pass on Bottas for the lead of the race to maximise his advantage.

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