Max Verstappen believes victory at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is out of reach after a driveshaft problem ended his qualifying early and means he’ll start the race 15th.
He didn’t even get chance to set a competitive time in Q2 after looking the hot favourite for pole position, which was taken by teammate Sergio Perez instead.
And after triumphing at the high-degradation Bahrain International Circuit to start the season, Verstappen said the tyre-friendly Jeddah Corniche Circuit will deny him a second victory of the season.
“I’m sure that we can move forward, I do think that trying to win the race is a bit of a stretch,” Verstappen told reporters.
“Because of the tyre management that needs to happen, everyone just seems to drive to a certain pace, but we’ll try to recover as much as we can.
“The car’s been really quick all weekend, every time I went out the car’s been working really well, I felt comfortable. And I know it’s a long season so a lot of things can happen.”
Verstappen: Saudi Arabia felt better than Bahrain
For the second successive year it was Perez celebrating pole position in Jeddah, after he’d been half a second behind Verstappen in Q1.
He’ll still have to fight off Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Carlos Sainz if he’s to take victory but that’s much easier than if he’d also been dealing with Verstappen at the front of the grid after the Dutchman looked dominant in the first half of the weekend.
“It’s been really straightforward, a better weekend in general than Bahrain actually for me personally, how I felt in the car, and I think you could see that in practice,” Verstappen added.
“But to be that doesn’t matter when you can’t really do qualifying right so we need to understand what went wrong.”
However, Verstappen did still look on the bright side as he’s guaranteed an entertaining race after strolling to victory in Bahrain.
“Of course I’m disappointed not to have a proper qualifying but I’m also excited for tomorrow,” Verstappen added.
“If everything works well on the first lap I think we can move quite far forwards but we’ll wait and see how far we can reach, there’s normally a bit of chaos on the first lap.
“It’s not like some places, you can’t just like run off the track to avoid things because there is a wall so it’s definitely a little bit more tricky than a lap one in Spa for example.”