Max Verstappen damaged the floor of his Red Bull during his first lap in Q1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session. The damage seemed severe at first, as cameras picked up parts falling from the car. This led to worries about Verstappen not having a car to compete with Mercedes on a level playing field.
However, all doubts were put to bed after Max Verstappen snatched pole from Lewis Hamilton with a lap time that was 0.388 seconds quicker than the reigning world champion's. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner later revealed the extent of the damage to Max Verstappen's car.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1, the Red Bull team boss said:
"He smacked the bottom of the car pretty hard, because they run so low, that we've lost a couple of bits of carbon under the front of the car there. Maybe he was carrying about a tenth's worth of damage through the rest of the sessions."
Horner's quote also puts into perspective Verstappen's gap to Hamilton. By this estimate, the Dutchman could have been almost half-a-second clear of the seven-time world champion, if not for the damage to his car.
No Guarantees for the future: Max Verstappen
This is now Max Verstappen's second consecutive pole in Formula 1. He finished last season by taking pole position in Abu Dhabi. When questioned about this statistic, Verstappen said:
"That's what you always aim for, right? Of course the last few years it hasn't really materialized."
Verstappen also spoke about the regulation changes imposed by the FIA for the 2021 Formula 1 season:
"The regulations haven't really changed a lot and I think we knew what our weaknesses were last year. And it seems like we addressed them so far at the beginning of the year."
On a parting note, Max Verstappen was cautious about going overboard with the celebrations.
"Of course [I'm] very happy with that. Great start for us but of course no guarantees for the future."
The Dutchman is now showing the maturity that many experts believe he lacked. Verstappen understands that regardless of how good a qualifying session is, championship points are won on Sunday.
Red Bull has taken the initiative early this season, with Max Verstappen snatching pole position from the defending champion. It remains to be seen if the Dutchman can replicate his form at the Bahrain Grand Prix race. If he can, Mercedes could have a formidable competitor for the championship throughout the year.