Max Verstappen was very happy with the way that qualifying had gone for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, and for what it signified for the team’s direction.
He said it proved that Red Bull had made some significant progress over recent weeks and was once again in the mix to claim victory on Sunday.
“I think for us, on this track, to be that competitive was a very good result,” he said after finishing third-fastest in the final round, just 0.067s off the pole winner.
- QUALIFYING: Bottas seals crucial US pole, Hamilton only fifth fastest
“Qualifying was just very tight,” he acknowledged. In the end we were very close, of course you would like those 67 thousandths to be to your advantage, but it was not.”
“It’s ridiculously close,” commented team principal Christian Horner. “It’s good to line-up on the second row of the grid and especially to see the cars’ competitiveness at this circuit.”
Verstappen set his best Q3 time on the first run, and like most of the drivers was unable to improve on it at the end of the session as conditions started to change.
“The track evolved a bit in Q3 and that was somehow not so good for me,” he explained. “The rear of the car came out too much, so in the first sector where I had to make the difference, I was not able to.
“I found the grip was maybe not the same but of course that’s the same for everyone,” he noted. “It was just a bit harder to get your lap out.
“[But] in general it is very positive for us to be that close in qualifying,” he insisted. “Compared to last year we made a really big step forward.
“In the last two races we’ve been a lot more competitive, so that’s very positive,” he added.
“The whole weekend has been smooth and we didn’t really have a lot of trouble with set-up or whatever.
“We are definitely improving and learning and also looking ahead for next year and we are definitely going in the right direction.
“In general I’m very pleased,” he summed up. “To be here in the top three – of course I would like to be sat in the middle – but it’s still very positive.
“We are normally quite good in the race. Compared to last year we’re much more competitive in qualifying this time. That gives us a lot more hope for [the race], so let’s see what’s going to happen.
“We are starting more towards the front than usual at this track,” he added. “I think the engine power has also improved and we are all so close.
“A lot will depend on the tyre life and strategy tomorrow but whatever happens it should be a good race and I’m looking forward to it.”
However there was one aspect of Saturday’s events that Verstappen wasn’t quite so happy with. He was involved in a near-miss during the second round of qualifying which also featured Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
The cars ended up three-wide at the end of Q2 as they jostled for position for their final runs. Kvyat ended up being forced wide to avoid contact, which Verstappen blamed on Hamilton.
“We were all lining up to do our lap to get to the last corner,” Verstappen explained. “I had Daniil in front of me and we were all just slowing down to make space.
“Then Lewis just drove by like nobody was there and didn’t care,” he fumed.
“I was like, ‘Well if you don’t care, I don’t care’,” he continued. “I tried to get my position back, because everybody was just respecting each other at that point just to start the lap.
“That’s why it was such a close call.”
The race stewards noted the incident but subsequently determined that no further action was required, meaning that none of the drivers involved were called to the stewards’ office to explain what had happened.
However Kvyat’s final lap ended up being deleted because he exceeded track limits, meaning that the Russian starts tomorrow’s race from 13th.
“It’s a shame my last lap got deleted as I only went off track by the smallest of margins, but rules are rules,” the Toro Rosso driver said.
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