Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen got a front-row start to the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday, but decried a “terrible” weekend in the Red Bull car after being pipped for pole position by Charles Ferrari’s Leclerc.
Leclerc was nearly three-tenths of a second quicker than Verstappen on the improved Albert Park circuit in the final stages of qualifying, leaving the Dutchman furious. “It’s been terrible for me all weekend so far,” Verstappen said of the RB18’s performance.
“It was just a big fight and clearly we didn’t seem to really fix it even in qualifying. I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car,” he said.
“It just doesn’t give you the confidence to push… So to be honest, it hasn’t been great.”
Race officials removed one of the circuit’s four DRS zones, which encourage overtaking, after a safety review following Friday’s practice.
With Red Bull having shown superior straight-line speed to Ferrari, Verstappen was unimpressed with the decision. “Taking off a DRS zone, it’s going to be more difficult,” he said.
“I don’t know why they removed it because it was much safer than what we did in Jeddah, for example. So it’s a bit of a mystery to me why we don’t have it. But yes, we will give it our best.”
His team-mate Sergio Perez qualified third but his grid position could be affected after he was summoned by the stewards for allegedly failing to slow when yellow flags were shown during qualifying.
Team boss Christian Horner was confident Mexican Perez would be cleared, saying the data showed Perez had eased off the accelerator.
Overall, Horner was optimistic about Red Bull’s position and said Ferrari could struggle over the distance on Sunday. “It looks like they’ll have a bit of a headache with all this twisting and turning,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough with them tomorrow, we know they have a very, very fast car, but I still think we can drive them and we’ll see how powerful those DRS areas are.”
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