Max starting Spanish GP from fourth: 'We are not where we want to be'

Published on 11 May 2019 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen will start the Spanish Grand Prix from the second row. On Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Dutchman came in fourth fastest. Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag in his Mercedes. Team mate Lewis Hamilton was runner up ahead of Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari. Pierre Gasly put the second Red Bull on the sixth spot.

‘Compared to Mercedes we lacking quite a bit’, says Max after qualifying. ‘We are not where we want to be, we need to be very honest about that. I am not here to qualify fourth, I am happy to be in between the Ferraris but as a team we want to challenge the nr. one and that is Mercedes. Tomorrow we have a realistic chance of fighting with Ferrari, we are quite close. Mercedes is a different story though. Bottas especially seems like he is flying this weekend. I am not really targetting that, but you never know.’

Max continues: ‘I am normally a bit more confident in the race that our car is in a better window. All in all, I am pretty happy with the updates on the car, in qualifying my balance wasn’t bad but clearly we are lacking pace and grip.’

Prior to qualifying it has become clear that George Russell has been slapped with a five-place grid-penalty after the Williams’ team has had to change the reigning F2 champion's gearbox. This was needed because the Briton, in the closing stages of the third free practice, hit the tyre wall with the rear of his car after spinning in Turn 4. Daniel Ricciardo on the other hand had already been given a three-place grid-penalty for his crash in Baku.

At the start of Q1 and with 20 degrees Celsius, it is cooler than during the first free practice on Friday. The track temperature is 29 degrees. Robert Kubica is the first one out on track in his Williams while team mate Russell is still in the garage. Both Ferraris and Lance Stroll follow suit not much later. Quite quickly there is a yellow flag in sector two. Nico Hulkenberg shoots off track in Turn 4, plows through the gravel trap and hits the tyre wall. The German is able to get back to the pits but with a severely damaged front wing.

In the meantime, Max Verstappen has also begun with his flying lap. With a purple second and third sector, the young man puts his Red Bull in P1. Valtteri Bottas betters that not much later by a bare minimum. With still five minutes to go, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Russell, Kubica and Hulkenberg are all in the danger zone. When Q1 has finished, we see Max in P2, Gasly in P10 and we say goodbye to Kubica, Russell, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Hulkenberg.

The big question at the start of Q2 is, who is man enough to head out on track on a set of the mediums. Quite quickly it becomes clear that everyone is out on a set of the softs, meaning that the entire top-ten will start the race on Sunday on the soft tyre. Both Mercedes, Ferraris and Max’ Red Bull are the early birds on track. After the first run the top-six is formed by Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Max, Grosjean and Leclerc. Gasly has gone for a different strategy by heading out later. The Frenchman puts his Red Bull in P5. Alexander Albon, Lando Norris, Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen are all at risk after the first run.

The track temperature slowly increases and everyone, with the exception of Max and Vettel, head out on track for a second run. We see some good improvements and when the flag drops, Norris, Albon, Carlos Sainz, Raikkonen and Sergio Perez can go and hit the shower. Max has dropped down the ranks to P5 because Leclerc has been able to better his time after his second run.

Lewis Hamilton is the first one out on track in Q3. Kvyat and Bottas trail him by some distance. Vettel follows not much later while Leclerc’s car is still being worked on. After the first run, Max is fourth behind both Mercedes’ and Vettel. Bottas is with a lead of well over six tenths on a provisional pole while we wait for the second run.

With still five minutes remaining on the clock, Leclerc heads out for his first run. The Monegasque is three tenths down in sector one compared to his team mate Vettel. The rest of the lap is also not to write home about. After his first attempt, he is P5 behind of Max. The top-3 fails to better their time so Bottas takes pole position. Max is not able to improve his time as well while Leclerc behind of him is on a fast lap. He betters his time but it’s not fast enough to put Max in the hurt box. Verstappen ultimately finishes fourth.

Spanish GP contest: Win the scale model of Max Verstappen RB14 Spain 2018

Results qualifying Spain:

1Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:16.9791:15.9241:15.406
2Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:17.2921:16.0381:16.040
3Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:17.4251:16.6671:16.272
4Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:17.2441:16.7261:16.357
5Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:17.3881:16.7141:16.588
6Pierre GaslyGASRed Bull Racing Honda1:17.8621:16.9321:16.708
7Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:18.0421:17.0661:16.911
8Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:17.6691:17.2721:16.922
9Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:17.9141:17.2431:17.573
10Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:18.3851:17.2991:18.106
11Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:17.6111:17.338
12Alexander AlbonALBScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:17.7961:17.445
13Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:17.7601:17.599
14Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:18.1321:17.788
15Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:18.2861:17.886
16Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:18.404
17Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:18.471
18Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:18.664
19George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:19.072
20Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes1:20.254