Red Bull's Max Verstappen is banking on his supersoft-shod starting strategy in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a poor Q3 left him “annoyed with myself” in sixth position on the starting grid.
Errors on both of his flying laps in the top-10 shootout cost him what he believes would have been third on the grid, behind title-contending Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Verstappen even pointed to his final Q2 run on ultrasoft tyres – which he deliberately aborted to ensure he starts on the more durable supersoft.
“That [Q2] lap time, if I finished it, was enough for P3 in Q3,” he rued. “I was annoyed with myself I couldn’t match my previous runs in Q3.
“Q1 and Q2 was very good, no issues. Then in Q3, in my first run, I locked the fronts in Turn 11, so I went wide. I lost at least two tenths on my previous lap.
“It was still looking good, I was only one and a half tenths off P3. Then in my second run, I improved again through sector one, and in Turns 8/9, I was again two tenths up so that was positive.
“Then I was like, ‘If I just do a decent Turn 11, another two tenths, it’s all looking good’. But then I had a massive lock-up into Turn 11 on the outside wheel. So I went even wider.
“That was a shame. It could have been easily P3. Unfortunately in Q3, I couldn’t get the right feeling on the braking into Turn 11.”
When asked why he’d repeated the error, he replied: “There is this kerb which is a bit disturbing on the braking, you see a lot of cars trying to go over. I was trying to do the same, but somehow, in Q3, I couldn’t get it right.”
Banking on alternate strategy
Both Red Bulls will start the final Grand Prix of the year on Pirelli’s supersoft tyres, unlike the other eight cars in the top 10 which will all start on ultrasofts.
Verstappen believes this is how he can get back into the fight for a podium finish.
“The ultrasoft is quite weak in the long runs,” said Verstappen. “I did a long run in the morning [in FP3] with the temperatures way higher, and the supersoft was quite good. So we’ll see.
“Starting on different tyres, hopefully the first stint I can go a bit longer together with Daniel and then we’ll see what happens. We just try something different. If we do the same tyres [as Mercedes] for sure you are just following, and that’s not what you want.
“I have to go forward, the pace was there all weekend, and then you’re starting last from the top three teams – definitely not happy but for sure it will be an interesting race tomorrow.”
Additional reporting by Edd Straw