Verstappen gives Hamilton and Norris Chinese GP sprint hope with twin Red Bull worries

Max Verstappen was unusually off the pace in sprint qualifying for the 2024 Chinese GP, behind McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin


Max Verstappen conceded he could struggle at the start of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix sprint race starting on the inside of the track behind Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and polesitter Lando Norris.

Verstappen was unable to master the RB20 in the rain at the Shanghai International Circuit, only completing one lap that put him fourth on the grid for the sprint, starting on the more uncompetitive right-hand-side of the track.

After a five-year absence from the Formula 1 calendar, the Chinese GP returned with a resurfaced track including a surface treatment that first gave the appearance of paint, causing consternation amongst drivers.

“It’s not ideal to start on the inside here, there’s a lot lower grip, left to right, with this painted stuff on the tarmac,” Verstappen told the media. “So we have to try and you have the best start possible.

“And then of course, I think it’s going to be quite a long stint on one set of tyres in the sprint, but that makes it quite, quite interesting.”

Verstappen: Sprint qualifying ‘like driving on ice’

Max Verstappen in the Paddock ahead of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen in the Paddock ahead of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen was over two seconds behind Norris, though it was impressive he was even able to crack the top five given uncharacteristic mistakes ruined his first two laps and he only got a competitive time on the board at the death.

He ended up two places ahead of teammate Sergio Perez while Ferrari – usually Red Bull‘s closest challengers in 2024 – also could trouble the top spots.

The sprint qualifying at least sets up a more intriguing race, though Verstappen will remain the favourite if conditions do dry up.

“it was incredibly slippery, I just struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tyres so that’s why it was just very difficult to to keep the car on track,” Verstappen added. “And it never really switched on for me so it was just like driving on ice.

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

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for and in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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