Max Verstappen will start from fifth place in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, and the teenager said that it the team couldn’t have expected any more.
The Dutch driver will start behind two rows dominated by drivers from Mercedes and Ferrari. He said that he felt this was a true reflection of Red Bull’s current form under 2017’s new rules.
“Of course not good enough,” he said after qualifying. “But after a troubled weekend and basically I saw it coming after winter testing – this is the best we could do.”
Asked by Sky Sports F1 why he felt that the team couldn’t have done any better on the day, Verstappen identified car set-up as an issue.
“Tricky balance in the car. All the time, when we’re changing something it changes quite a lot in terms of understeer and oversteer.”
But set-up wasn’t the only problem apparently holding Red Bull back at the start of the season.
“Basically not having the pace. Of course we’re still down on power but also in terms of grip levels we’re not the same as Ferrari and Mercedes yet.”
He was clear on what he needed when the lights went out in Melbourne tomorrow.
“Just a clean start. We don’t have the pace to challenge the Ferraris and Mercedes. I’m realistic. Probably a very lonely race, because behind me is also quite a big gap.”
However Verstappen did give a big thumbs up to the this year’s cars – at least to a point.
“In terms of driving, yes,” he replied when asked if the new tyre and downforce regulations were going in the right direction for Formula 1.
“It’s a lot faster and a lot more enjoyable, especially in qualifying when you take out the fuel. In the high speed corners it’s hooked, it’s really good.
“But in terms of racing I think it will be more boring. Tomorrow, whoever takes first in turn one will win the race.”
Verstappen added that he felt the new rules had contributed to the accident suffered by his team mate Daniel Ricciardo in Q3.
“The problem [for Ricciardo] is that the tyres are quite wide in the rear now, and as soon as you lose it it’s really difficult to catch it. Just because they are that wide, and you lose a lot of grip suddenly.
“It’s what I experienced in [pre-season testing in] Barcelona when you have a moment,” he added. “But normally when you just have a normal balance in the car and you don’t have an oversteer they’re actually easier to drive.”