“Qualifying was miles better than practice”, but Red Bull “need to bring more performance to the car” — Verstappen on P2 in F1 Spanish GP qualifying

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
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The three-time World Champion wasn’t able to defend his pole from the last season in Barcelona, and had to concede the top starting spot to Lando Norris.

After strongly leading the way in Q2, and a very impressive first attempt in the final segment that had him 0.123s clear, Verstappen improved his best effort with the assist of Perez’s tow on his final run to improve by 0.270s.

However, Norris got him as a brilliant lap saw the Brit take pole by 0.020s.

The Red Bull driver discussed his qualifying session, saying the car was in a much better window in qualifying following difficulties in practice once again.

The main areas Red Bull gained in turned into diminishing returns at the end as other drivers got faster in the high speed stuff, turns 3, 9 and 14.

“The lap itself was good. I mean, I even also got a tow to Turn 1. I think in general, when you look at it, the whole of qualifying was just miles better than practice for me, I always felt like the car was not really connected in all the free practice sessions. So when I went into qualifying, it just clicked much better.

“In the very high speed, we were particularly strong around the laps, with Turns 3, 9, and the last corner, which were quite comfortably flat. But in a way probably that’s why we were not improving that much in the final few runs because those corners are flat, so there’s nothing to gain, and then there are not that many corners left around the track.

“So, I did make my gains but I probably was already flat where maybe Lando wasn’t flat before and then you just lose out a little bit with that, maybe a bit too draggy for qualifying, looking back at it, But that’s something that is always very easy to say afterwards because the whole of the weekend we were just sliding around too much.”

“Now probably it was finally hooked up and you probably would have turned down the wing a little bit, but that’s how it goes.”

Red Bull had dominated on permanent tracks earlier in the season, but it has tightened up massively since Verstappen’s dominant win in Shanghai.

Barcelona has shown the RB20 is no longer the dominant car, and the 26-year-old says they need to develop the car with McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all bringing sizeable updates recently.

“I think it’s been OK, but not good enough, clearly. These kinds of tracks, I was hoping to be ahead, but the other teams are catching up..We’ve seen this already in the last few races, so it’s definitely a lot harder. We need to do everything perfect to be first. We just need to bring more performance to the car.”

Although the run to turn 1 in Barcelona is one of the longest of the season, Verstappen would rather be on pole as the slipstream is not as powerful as it was in the previous era of 2017-2021.

“Yeah, you do, but I would always want to start first. It’s a bit easier to defend like that. I think our top speeds are all quite similarish and we don’t have DRS, of course, into Turn 1 with the start. So again, it all depends on how good your start is going to be.

“It is such a long race, so many laps that you have to do on these tyres around here that anything can happen.”