Max Verstappen claims that his car “behaved strange” in the last two corners during qualifying for the French Grand Prix.
The Dutchman will start Sunday’s race from P4, though his fastest Q3 time was over a second slower than pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton despite the Honda PU upgrade.
Nonetheless, he believes that P4 was the best starting position achievable for Red Bull, but hopes to get to the bottom of the strange handling issues he encountered.
“I think we took the maximum result,” he told reporters in Le Castellet.
“After making some improvements to the car we had a good qualifying compared to practice, [but] my lap was not the best, because the car behaved a bit strange in the last two corners. We’ll have to look at that.”
Despite Q3 coming to a close with four tenths between Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in P3, he doesn’t believe the deficit is actually that severe.
“We could have been closer to Ferrari but my final lap wasn’t very clean,” he admitted.
“The cars are this year extra sensitive to the wind and that is not nice.
“During my first lap in Q3 I had a moment and that is not ideal. You just have to try and deal with it.”
McLaren were the surprise package on Saturday, locking out the third row as Lando Norris got to within one hundredth of Verstappen, and the Dutchman admits that the Woking outfit are a lot closer to them now.
“It seems that McLaren is now very close to us,” he confessed.
“Normally we should be three, four tenths ahead of them. But we maximised our position and I am happy to be on the second starting row.
“We need a bit of luck [in the race] I think,” he added when asked if a podium finish was possible. “I do not think we can fight the Mercedes, but hopefully we can with the Ferraris.
“It will be tricky, but at least we start in a good position in comparison with Canada. We give it a good go and see where we end up.”
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) June 22, 2019
While Verstappen cleared Q2 on the mediums to use them for the race start, making the one-stop strategy available to him, his team-mate Pierre Gasly needed the soft compound and is now locked onto that for his first stint in the race.
Add that to the fact that he managed only P9 on the grid, it’s understandable why Gasly was frustrated with his performance.
“It was a difficult qualifying overall,” admitted the French driver. “We made some changes after [FP3] and qualifying was tricky as I struggled with grip.
“I’m quite disappointed with ninth because I think we clearly had more than that, but that’s where we are and we’ll have to fight tomorrow.
“We start the race on the soft tyre so we know it’s not going to be easy, but the long run pace was okay.
“We will have to look at the strategy and see what we can do to make these tyres last as long as they can so we can fight our way back and recover some positions. I’ll be pushing flat out.”