Max Verstappen says he was unable to compete with the pace-setting Ferrari cars in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix and believes he was losing as much as a second per lap on the straight.
Verstappen qualified in fourth place for tomorrow’s race in Sochi but will start from ninth following a five-place grid penalty he picked up for an engine change.
After edging out Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to place fourth, Verstappen believes he maximised the potential of his car and says P5 is likely to be the maximum he can achieve in the race.
“In general, there was not much more we could do. We were losing too much time on the straight compared to Ferrari. Yesterday we were the same pace on the straight and today we’re losing over a second, so yeah, you can’t really fight like that in qualifying when the gap is that big,” said Verstappen.
“I think realistically speaking, P5 is the maximum I can do [from ninth on the grid],” he continued.
“Maybe you have a really good first lap and then suddenly things change or with a safety car, but if nothing happens, then P5.
"Looking at qualifying I don’t think there was much more in it. I think their pace is better, so I don’t think I'll be able to do a lot.”
With team-mate Alexander Albon starting the race from 19th place following a crash in qualifying, Verstappen rejected suggestions his performances this season have made Albon and former team-mate Pierre Gasly appear worse than they are.
“I think that I'm definitely on top of the car. I think I really get everything out of it, but to comment on their performance is really tricky,” said Verstappen.
“From my side, I try to push as hard as I can, to try and be as close to Mercedes and Ferrari as I can be. We know some tracks are a bit better than others but I think in general we’re still lacking a little bit to them.
"Today I was happy I could outperform once Mercedes. I felt the lap was good, there was not much more in it and that is satisfying.”