Max Verstappen admitted his Red Bull was uncomfortable to drive in qualifying for the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix despite taking pole position on a stormy afternoon in Sao Paulo.
Q3 was the first session Verstappen has topped all weekend after George Russell led earlier in qualifying, but with a jet-black maelstrom surging over the horizon towards Interlagos, the Dutchman made sure to hurry through his outlap before the storm hit.
Verstappen kept his head when it mattered most and will start Sunday’s race from pole alongside Charles Leclerc, but still didn’t seem overly confident that Red Bull are the team to beat in Brazil.
“It was a bit difficult over the bumps, I don’t know why that was the case because we didn’t really touch the car,” Verstappen told the media. “So we need to understand that because on the bumps it was not very comfortable. But we tried to work our way around it.
“I didn’t even have a lap on the soft tyres because we only had FP1. So naturally in Q1 there’s always a bit more margin in your lap time, but it was extremely tight so if you didn’t do a good lap, you’re out.
“And that just continued through the qualifying, there was always a threat of rain. I think in Q1 and Q2, it was quite clear that it wasn’t happening, but because of the pace of everyone else, you were forced to put new tyres on basically.”
As the rain pelted down on Interlagos there was an inescapable sense that fans both at the circuit and watching on TV had been robbed of one of the most competitive qualifying sessions of the season.
However, that should get rectified at least a little by the Sprint weekend, with Saturday’s shootout likely to be a one-shot affair between the leaders.
“I don’t know, it depends on the wind direction we get tomorrow. But yeah, I think it will be close again, so we’ll see,” Verstappen added.
Pole was up for grabs
Verstappen admitted he wasn’t sure if Red Bull would’ve taken pole position if it wasn’t for the storm curtailing qualifying.
It was an extreme rarity in 2023 as the entire top-five of the constructors’ championship were represented in Q3 – both drivers from Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin made the cut.
“The gaps were just very, very close, I think we were quite competitive,” Verstappen added. “I think no one really knew who was going to be first in Q3 if it would’ve been a normal session without the weather incoming.
“But I think that makes it quite interesting for Sunday as well to see how everything will evolve with the long-run pace”