Max Verstappen explained why a change between FP3 and Qualifying was crucial for him and Red Bull securing pole position for Sunday’s 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Heading into the final qualifying session of the 2023 F1 season, Red Bull were struggling for pace, with Verstappen only sixth fastest in FP3, over seven tenths down on pacesetter George Russell.
However, in Qualifying, normal service was resumed as a late setup change helped Verstappen to his fourth consecutive pole position at Abu Dhabi despite not improving his time on his second lap.
“Yeah, what a turnaround, to be honest, because in practice, it was not looking that good, I was struggling a lot with the balance,” explained a relieved Verstappen to the press conference.
“Of course, the track grips up a bit, but I think the issues I had were more severe than a little bit more rubber here and there.
“Luckily, I think we made the right changes on the car for qualifying because I think from Lap 1, it all just felt a lot more connected.
“Around here, it’s a lot about tyres and how they behave if you have tiny slides here and there, they overheat, so in qualifying, it definitely felt a bit better.”
Warning to Marko after pre-qualifying bet
Before qualifying, Verstappen had struggled to find the right balance with his Red Bull, which hadn’t been helped by Friday’s second practice session being interrupted by two red flags.
The lack of pace caused Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Helmut Marko to have a €500 wager on whether Verstappen would qualify on the front row.
Marko bet against his charge and duly lost his money, with Horner telling Verstappen over team radio he had won €500 off the Austrian thanks to his pole position lap.
“I think Helmut learned his lesson never bet against me,” joked Verstappen when asked about the wager and setup issues.
“Of course, there’s always a bit of a gamble because you don’t know. I mean, we already tried a lot of things on the car, which didn’t really seem to solve the problem.
“But yeah, I think GP [Gianpiero Lambiase] stayed calm, and he went through a lot of options, and then with my feedback, he came up with a very good setup for qualifying, so yeah, very happy with that.
“Of course, there’s always a bit of a gamble you’re never 100 percent sure. And missing FP1, I don’t know [if it made a difference]. It probably would have still been tough to get it right for FP2.”