In a dramatic qualifying session ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, reigning world champion Max Verstappen secured P3 and will be starting Sunday's race on the second row, alongside Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.
In a post-qualifying media interaction, the Red Bull driver admitted that "tiny mistakes" during the session cost him a shot at the pole. He said:
“I think the start of the lap was good then it went away from me a little bit. Tiny mistakes but in general just struggling a bit to find front to rear balance over one lap, so not of course what I want but still as a team in second and third we have a good opportunity for tomorrow. I think, overall, we seem to lack a tiny bit over one lap, but clearly our car should normally be quite good.”
The Dutchman's main title rival Charles Leclerc took his sixth pole position of the season in Baku. Meanwhile, his teammate Sergio Perez, another title contender, will be starting in second.
Max Verstappen is thinking about the "long game", says former F1 driver
Former F1 driver Allan McNish believes that Max Verstappen, who not only broke his streak of winning each race he completed so far in the 2022 season in Monaco but also finished behind his teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, has nothing left to prove after winning his maiden championship title last year.
Admitting that the Dutchman is possibly just focussing on the "long game" rather than attacking with blind aggression, McNish said the following about Verstappen's attitude in the Monaco GP on the F1 Nation podcast:
“The one thing I saw with Max [Verstappen] was someone that wasn’t necessarily attacking for the last tenth or the last overtake that we have seen before. Someone that realised ‘maybe I’m not quite quick enough this weekend to deliver a win’ and is thinking [about the] long game.”
“It might be the person that’s just won a world championship and knows he’s already got one in his pocket, so doesn’t necessarily have that little thing to prove. Not to everyone else, but very often to yourself. I certainly know from my point of view as a driver, it was proving it to myself as much as it was to proving it to anyone else. When he looked in the mirror at the end, after the restart, he had his main championship contender behind him. The person leading was obviously his teammate, so from that perspective it was a reasonably protected position. I would say he was in a good position whichever way it was, because he was ahead of Charles Leclerc.”
Max Verstappen is currently leading the Driver Standings. However, a mere fifteen points separate the top three drivers on the grid, making it an extremely close fight going into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.