Max Verstappen reveals ‘little tickles’ on Red Bull setup helped push for Australia pole

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen after qualifying in Australia.

Max Verstappen took pole position for the third straight race in 2024 at the Australian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen did not believe pole position was possible for himself until at least Q2 on Saturday, before the “little tickles” he and Red Bull had been working on came to fruition in Q3 in Melbourne.

Verstappen took his third straight pole position to start the season in what looked like comfortable fashion in Australia on Saturday, but complaints of understeer and two fast Ferraris appeared to give Red Bull something of a headache before the three-time World Champion put in two laps which would have been good enough for P1 on the grid come Sunday.

Max Verstappen reveals ‘little tickles’ on RB20 helped ‘really push it’ in qualifying

Verstappen had appeared to be at the very least in a multi-car battle for pole position throughout Australian Grand Prix qualifying, but two excellent laps in Q3 were enough to secure him pole position in an attempt to match his record of 10 race victories in a row that he set last season.

Having had mutiple exchanges with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase and his complaints with the car, he managed to overcome them nonetheless, with another pole notched to his tally for the season.

“I’m very happy with that,” Verstappen said of his performance in the post-qualifying press conference.

“I think so far this weekend it’s been a bit tough to find a good balance in the car, and even throughout qualifying, Q1, Q2, I didn’t really feel like fighting for pole.

“But then we made some little tickles on the car and that seemed to help me in Q3 to really push it to the limit, and both of my laps I felt quite happy with it.

“I mean, there are always things that you can improve, but overall, very satisfied with the performance.”

When asked more about what those ‘little tickles’ were on the car and how he was tweaking his RB20 during Saturday, Verstappen revealed he was changing more than he wanted to in order to find the right balance during the session.

“Yeah, quite a bit more than I would have liked, of course,” he said about what was changing on the car, “and the same in qualifying.

“I think Q1 and Q2 was still quite difficult for me. But yeah, we just tried to fine-tune little things that we could throughout qualifying, and they made that little difference to push a bit harder.

“It’s just that it was a bit harder to find a good balance in the car. So we’ll find out tomorrow if it’s going to be good enough in the race because it looks like Ferrari is also very fast and quite comfortable the whole weekend already.

“So, yeah, hopefully it will be an interesting race tomorrow.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 starting grid: What is the grid order for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix?

F1 2024: Head-to-head qualifying record between team-mates

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc looked to be on the pace of the Red Bulls for much of the session before Verstappen secured pole position, and the three-time World Champion is of the belief the Scuderia appear to be closer than they have been all season long.

Leclerc in particular looked strong on his long-run simulation on Friday while Sainz believed he could have challenged for pole in a fully fit state, as he’s still recovering from appendicitis surgery, but Verstappen is keeping a close eye on his nearest rivals come lights out.

“Yeah, maybe it’s because we were not on top of things, but they looked well dialled in, let’s say, like that from the start and probably from our side, it was a bit the opposite way,” he explained.

“Yeah, we managed to improve it, but the race is going to be quite tough with the softer compounds that we have this year. So yeah, we’ll find out tomorrow.”

Read next: Red Bull hit with grid penalty as Sergio Perez punished for Nico Hulkenberg block