Max Verstappen was confident his lowly starting position of P9 would not prove terminal to his chances of getting on the podium.
Having looked quick throughout Friday, Verstappen cut a frustrated figure come the chequered flag after a mistake from both he and Charles Leclerc saw him unable to even put in a flying lap in Q3.
Verstappen was the first car to leave the pit lane as the green light showed for the final session of the day but almost as soon as he started his lap, strong gusts of wind knocked him off course and forced him into mistakes, prompting him to back out and return to the pits.
The Dutchman would have been confident of righting the wrong a few minutes later as the cars headed out for the final flying lap but he was not given the chance to do so when Leclerc was a little too quick to get on the power coming out of Turn 5 and spun into the wall.
With under two minutes of the session remaining, the red flag was waved to bring about an early end to Q3 and cosign Verstappen to a low starting position by his standards.
Verstappen, who started P15 in Saudi Arabia but was able to finish on the podium, was confident of a repeat performance, going as far as to say he was expecting “minimum P2” in Sunday’s race.
“I was trying to put it on the limit and then I made a mistake,” he told Sky Sports F1. “Then you rely on a bit of luck that there is not going to be a red flag but that can happen on a street circuit. So, I’m just a bit upset with myself.
“I mean, it’s going to be tough [in the race]. I made it difficult for myself so I have to accept that.”
Verstappen was then interrupted by the interviewer who said “but your car?” which prompted the Dutchman to make his “minimum P2 position” prediction.
Verstappen’s misfortune was Sergio Perez’s fortune after the red flag meant he had secured the third pole of his career and the first away from Saudi Arabia.
Speaking after getting out of the RB19, Perez said he felt the weekend had been his worst up of the season up until qualifying.
“I think it’s been my worst weekend up until qualifying really,” the Red Bull man said. “I just couldn’t figure out how to put [in] those tenths that I was missing all the time to Max and to the Ferraris.
“I was just resetting everything. We made a small change going into qualifying and really everything became more alive.”