Verstappen explains why Bahrain GP pole surprised Red Bull so much

Max Verstappen thought the battle for 2024 Bahrain GP pole position would be closer with Ferrari and Mercedes

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Max Verstappen insisted there was a noticeable change in the Red Bull RB20’s performance for his final run of qualifying, as Q3 was the first session he led for the entire 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

Verstappen only broke into the top three at the end of FP3 and the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc topped Q1 and Q2, but the Dutchman went top with his first run of the final qualifying session and never relinquished pole position.

He was audibly shocked on team radio with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase after beating Leclerc by two-tenths with his final lap, and Verstappen was asked after the session why that was the case.

“I just had a bit more grip somehow. The first run, it just didn’t really feel that great, the tyres never really switched on,” Verstappen told the media. “And then on the final lap, yeah, it just felt better from Turn 1. I think it was just good for us in Q2, Q3, especially Q3.

“It all just improved a little bit more, but I think throughout the whole of qualifying you could see the gaps were super close and I think you never really knew who was going to be on pole heading into Q3. So I think that was very exciting to see.”

Verstappen: Just need to get better with every run

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Christian Horner embrace in the paddock prior to free practice at the 2024 Bahrain GP | Clive Rose/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen‘s lap appeared to visibly flatten Ferrari, who thought they’d be in the battle for the first pole position of the year but Carlos Sainz ended up even behind the Mercedes of George Russell.

However, Sergio Perez‘s fifth-place finish – as one of four drivers separated by less than six-hundredths of a second – showed Red Bull still don’t have the same dominance as the start of 2023.

“It’s just trying to improve every run that you do, there are always things that can be done better,” Verstappen added. “Of course, in qualifying you’re very limited on what you can improve, but still little details can help you a bit. And just try to follow the track, which was not easy in qualifying to understand.

“But for sure, we improved the car from yesterday to today and then FP3 to qualifying again, a little step. That made me just a bit more comfortable and you can then attack the corners a bit better.”

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com 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 Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net 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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