Max Verstappen says he can “forget” about challenging for victory in the Singapore Grand Prix after slumping to a surprise Q2 exit.
Red Bull had struggled on Friday at the Marina Bay Circuit, but Verstappen wound up fourth in FP3, offering hope the team could be in contention for pole position.
However, Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were unable to set a time good enough to advance to Q3, putting both Red Bull drivers out in Q2 for the first time since 2018.
Verstappen believes a series of set-up changes between final practice and qualifying negatively impacted the behaviour of his RB19 car, adding that he lacked complete confidence on the brakes and through the series of slow-speed corners.
“I think actually this morning, well FP3, was better. We made some good progress. It was of course still not where we wanted to be, but it was looking like something,” he explained.
“But then we made a few more changes which we thought the setup would allow, the car would allow.
“But then we got into qualifying. The first big problem I had was that I couldn’t brake late and hard, because I would bottom out and it would unload the front tyres. On a street circuit, that is something that is very crucial, to be confident on the brakes and attack the corners.
“So I couldn’t do that, and besides, also just the low-speed corners, where I think we have been struggling the whole weekend, I just had no rear support, so I kept on having mini-slides, or in my final lap, a big one at Turn 3. When it’s like that, there is no lap time.”
While Verstappen believes Red Bull’s superior tyre management will aid his progress through the order, the Dutchman is anticipating a tough Sunday at a circuit notoriously difficult to overtake on.
“I mean, in general, normally our car is a bit better on deg, maybe to some people around us, but I don’t think that matters a lot in Singapore where it’s very hard to pass,” he lamented. “You need to be one-and-a-half, two, three seconds faster, which we are not.
“Clearly also now with the car performance imbalance we have.”
Pressed on whether he was ruling out his chances of victory tomorrow, Verstappen responded: “Yeah, you can forget about that, yeah.”
Verstappen has stressed the importance of Red Bull understanding the problems it has encountered this weekend in order to avoid a repeat next weekend in Japan.
“I think it’s also important that we understand what we did wrong this weekend, because I’m confident that next week, we’ll go to Suzuka, and it will be fast again,” he declared.
“It already felt like that also on the simulator, that this was a difficult setup window for the car. Then we went to Suzuka, and it just felt amazing again like the rest of the races.”
Although the reigning champion will provisionally line up 11th on the grid, Verstappen is under investigation for two incidents that could demote him further.
Verstappen appeared to impede the progress of both Mercedes drivers and Charles Leclerc at the end of the pit lane in Q1.
Expanding on the incident, the Red Bull driver said: “It’s something you do when the pit lane goes green, the first one normally takes off, and then the second one always waits a bit, takes off, then the next guy waits for that guy to have a bit of a gap.
“When I started to roll, and I could see there were a lot of cars that would be close, I knew what was going to happen in the last chicane. So I was like, I should stop, wait a bit, just to create less drama, then clearly, some people behind me were complaining. I just thought that would be a safer option than all being together.”
Then, in Q2, Verstappen was seen obstructing Yuki Tsunoda as the AlphaTauri driver embarked upon a timed run.
“Yeah, that was not good,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t see him, because I was on the radio talking about what was the problem, and then I didn’t get a call up until he was basically behind me. It basically sums up my qualifying. It was super hectic and messy.”