Red Bull driver Max Verstappen admitted that in the circumstances he was rather surprised to be as competitive as he was in qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix today at the Miami International Autodrome.
Verstappen missed out on the whole of FP2 on Friday after the team completed a precautionary gearbox change only to then suffer a major hydraulics issue which resulted in the rear brakes of the RB18 catching fire.
That left him playing catch-up on his rivals, made all the more difficult by being at a brand new circuit.
"I literally did four or five laps yesterday," Verstappen explained in parc ferme after the end of qualifying. "So the whole day today I was still trying to learn to track, trying to find a decent balance in the car.
"Actually to be that competitive in qualifying, I was a bit surprised because it's not an easy track to learn," he continued. "It’s always going to be tricky and it’s hard to push to the limits when you don’t know the track overly well.
In the end, Verstappen wasn't quite quick enough to stop his Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc from claiming pole position for tomorrow's race.
His initial Q3 run clocked in at 1:28.991s, but a mistake during his final flying lap forced him to abort the effort, leaving Leclerc to set a time that was quicker by almost two tenths of a second.
"You want to be on pole," admitted Verstappen. "But from where we come from, I think we did a really good job ... Overall I'm pretty pleased with qualifying.
"[But] we have to start making the weekends less difficult," he continued, referring to the costly self-inflicted problems he faced in FP2. "You know it's always going to be tricky.
"But we have a good chance for tomorrow," he said. "We have good top speed and the car's handling quite well, so I'm looking forward to [the race]."
"The track] is quite slippery outside of the normal racing line but we'll see," he added. "A lot of things can happen tomorrow.
"I think it is gonna be even warmer than today so it also depends a bit on how the tyres are going to behave."
With Leclerc's team mate Carlos Sainz also finding extra speed in the final seconds of qualifying, Ferrari achieved a 1-2 front row lock-out for the race. Verstappen will start from third alongside Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
"Only a couple of hundreds would have put me P2 so you will always be disappointed with such a gap," the Mexican driver said. "Today wasn’t ideal but I am looking forward to a strong Sunday.
"There is a long race ahead of us tomorrow and anything can happen, my race pace looks good so beating the Ferraris is possible if we have a better strategy than them."