Max Verstappen admitted he had been out of sorts all weekend despite securing a front-row start for the Australian Grand Prix.
The third round of the 2022 season may well develop into another duel between the World Champion and his Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, who pipped the Red Bull man to pole position at Albert Park.
So far this term, it is one win apiece between the drivers who are shaping up for a potential title tussle, Leclerc currently holding the advantage following Verstappen’s retirement from the opener in Bahrain.
But the Dutchman feels he will need to get back on song quickly in Melbourne having been some way below his usual high standards throughout Friday and Saturday.
We'll take that 👏 Plenty to play for on Race Day ⏭🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/IxiqRXLjVI
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 9, 2022
Asked on track by Johnny Herbert for his immediate reaction to his P2 position in qualifying, Verstappen replied: “Not good. I didn’t really feel good in the car the whole weekend so far.
“I think there’s not been one lap when I actually felt confident, so a bit of a struggle.
“Of course, second is still a good result, but just not feeling that great to go to the limit. We’ll try to analyse it.
“Probably in the race pace everything stabilises a bit, but for me this weekend so far it’s been all over the place. I think also as a team we want more.”
However, apart from not clinching pole, there was nothing else for Red Bull to be unhappy about as Sergio Perez qualified third fastest – although he still had to go and see the stewards over an accusation of failing to slow down sufficiently for yellow flags.
In addition, Ferrari suffered a blow with Carlos Sainz down in ninth position having had to back out of a lap close to the finish line when red flags were waved after Fernando Alonso had crashed. The Spaniard then made a mistake on his final run.
Perez had looked a pole position contender earlier in the session but Q3 did not go as well for him.
“In Q1 and Q2 things were going good, but with all the red flags it’s very hard to keep the momentum going,” said the Mexican.
“I regret a bit the decision we took going into Q3 with the strategy on the tyres, but I think P3 is a decent start for tomorrow.
“I hope we make a lot of Aussies very happy tomorrow – full grandstands already on Saturday, so hopefully tomorrow we can give them a nice race.”
Highlights from Australian Grand Prix qualifying
There were mixed fortunes up and down the grid as Charles Leclerc took pole in Australia.