Max Verstappen holds hands up after uncharacteristic qualifying: ‘It’s what we deserve’

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen made some uncharacteristic errors during the Sprint Qualifying session in Shanghai.

Max Verstappen had a qualifying session littered with uncharacteristic errors in Shanghai, resulting in his eventual fourth-place grid slot.

The Dutch driver topped the times in SQ2 to set the dry-weather pace just before the rain began to fall in the final minutes of Sprint Qualifying, but endured a difficult final part of the session.

Max Verstappen makes rare errors in Sprint Qualifying

The reigning World Champion embarked on his first flying lap on the intermediates, only to slide wide at Turn 6. Running outside the white lines meant the lap time was deleted, meaning Verstappen lost the 2:02.995 he logged.

Moments later, Verstappen was making up for his lost lap and was a second up through the first two sectors when he made an error into the final corner, Turn 16, and lost the 2:01.684 he got when he eventually crossed the line.

On his third attempt, Verstappen finally put in a clean lap but it wasn’t quick enough to challenge for the front as he put in a 2:00.028 to take fourth place behind polesitter Lando Norris, second-placed Lewis Hamilton, and third-placed Fernando Alonso.

Having had such an uncharacteristic qualifying session, Verstappen explained what had happened when he spoke to the media afterwards.

“It was incredibly slippery,” he said.

“I struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tyres, it was very difficult to keep the car on track, and it never really switched on for me.

It was just like driving on ice.

“That’s why I think it was quite deserved where we are in qualifying because it’s not really working for me in the wet, even though I think, [in] the dry, we look quite good. So, of course, I’m quite happy with that.”

The Shanghai circuit boasts a new track surface this weekend, with Chinese GP officials having lathered the track with a new bitumen-based paint that is supposed to improve circuit surface grip.

With Verstappen aiming to recover during the Sprint race on Saturday, the reigning World Champion said he’s looking forward to trying to make up for his errors.

“It’s not ideal to start on the inside here, there’s a lot lower grip, left to right, with this like painted stuff on the tarmac,” he said.

“We have to try and have the best start possible. Then, of course, it’s going to be quite a long stint on one set of tyres in the sprint, but that makes it quite interesting again.”

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Damon Hill’s theory on Max Verstappen’s struggles

Analysing Verstappen’s struggles for Sky F1 in the aftermath of Sprint Qualifying, 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill said he suspected the Red Bull RB20’s characteristics may have proved a hindrance for Verstappen on this occasion.

“The Red Bull is very easy on its tyres, which is one of its strengths,” he said.

“It’s got grip, but it’s also kind on its tyres and, in that situation, you needed to get heat in the tyres, so it probably worked against him.”

Former F1 racer Karun Chandhok said he doubts the Dutch driver will be down for long, once the race starts on Saturday.

“He’s been unbeaten in a qualifying session until today, hasn’t he?” he said.

“So he was just tentative, not able to get any grip, just sliding on the top surface of the tyre.

“It got better as the session unfolded but, yeah, definitely not the finest hour but you can never discount him in a race situation. You just know he’s going to be in amongst it.”

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