MARINA BAY, Singapore — Max Verstappen has labelled his second-place qualifying lap at the Singapore Grand Prix as his best ever in Formula One after engine issues forced him to run at a reduced power setting.
Verstappen emerged as the only threat to Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap on Saturday evening, but fell 0.319s shy after this Renault power unit briefly cut out on the exit of Turn 17. His middle sector had been 0.110s quicker than Hamilton’s, giving Verstappen a shot at pole had he had a clean final sector of the lap, but he was forced to abort his lap after the issue.
Verstappen’s lap was all the more impressive given that Red Bull had to detune his power unit during the session to prevent the more extreme power drop-outs he had experienced in final practice.
“It was totally unexpected,” he said. “After final practice I was shaking from anger but now I’m just shaking from happiness. In FP3 there were just so many problems — I was going into forced neutral, the car was just stopping on the track and while driving on my fast laps it was bogging down.
“Qualifying was the same story so we had to detune the engine and lost a bit of time there to try and make the drivability better, but it still didn’t work like it should do. So going into Q3, I felt that the car was working well and I didn’t really have anything to complain about.
“When I saw second place on the board, I was actually quite surprised given the problems I had. On my final run I tried to push a bit more, and I was two tenths up when I arrived to Turns 16 and 17 and then when I tried to short shift, the engine just cut out.
“I had to abort, but whether it would have been enough for pole I am not so sure, but at least it would have been closer than three tenths. But I am already surprised to be second with all issues I’m having.
“The only thing I can say is that it was a great qualifying, the best I have ever done and the car was working really well. That definitely put us second today.”
Asked if he had concerns that the engine might fail in the race, Verstappen added: “No, I think in the race you have to turn down the power anyway — it’s just when you go to the limit of the engine, we seem to struggle somehow with drivability and torque mapping.
“Yesterday in the long runs, I didn’t have the problem. And if it breaks, it breaks. You can’t really change it.”