Max Verstappen thought there was little more he could have done after qualifying third for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver had looked a contender for pole position after setting the fastest time in FP3, but when it came to the serious business he could not get the better of either Mercedes.
In fairness, the Dutchman was looking good for a front-row start alongside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton until Valtteri Bottas knocked him down to third on the final run.
P3 is a familiar placing for Verstappen, who suspects the lowest step of the podium is where he may end up on Sunday given the difference in pace between his car and that of the already-confirmed constructors’ World Champions.
“It’s life…not only here, the whole calendar, the whole year. There’s no surprise there,” said Verstappen of being third.
“I don’t think there was a lot more in there. Starting third has been basically my position the whole year so there’s nothing shocking about that.
“My lap was pretty good. I was lacking a bit of rear grip in the lower-speed corners for my liking, so we’ll look into that. It wouldn’t have given me pole position but it settles the car down a little bit more.
“It’s still P3 so it’s okay. Overall, I think it was quite a decent qualifying.
“Let’s see how we will go in the race because it’s very hard on tyres, so I hope we made the right compromise for that.”
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) November 28, 2020
Barring any mishaps befalling his main rivals, strategy is likely to be Verstappen’s only hope of challenging Mercedes for what would be his second victory of the season.
“They are still very fast, so I’ll just try to keep the gap as close as possible,” said Verstappen. “When you have a car like that which is normally four or five tenths in front in qualifying, normally in the race they should be ahead as well.
“I know I have different tyres to Mercedes, so let’s see if that works to our advantage or not. Hopefully the hard tyres will work tomorrow. I just hope it will be competitive.
“I definitely think they picked up their pace a bit today. It will be hard to beat them but I hope it will be an exciting race, that’s the most important.
“I just hope we can score good points and hopefully fight for the podium.”