The Dutchman had battled engine problems throughout practice and qualifying, but managed to pull everything together in Q2 to end the first run three tenths down on Hamilton.
But when running even quicker on his second run – to leave him in with a chance of grabbing the top spot – Verstappen’s engine cut out and he was unable to improve.
“Totally unexpected,” said the Red Bull driver about ending up second on the grid despite the problems he faced. “From FP3 onwards I was shaking from anger but now I am shaking from happiness.
“In FP3 just so many problems. Going into false neutral, the car was stopping on track. While driving on my fast laps it was just bogging down, and qualifying was exactly the same story.
“We had to detune the engine and lost a bit of time there to try to make the driveability better, but it still didn’t work like it should do.
“Going into Q3 I felt the car was working really well and didn’t have anything to complain, so when I saw second on the board I was actually quite surprised with the problems I had.
“On my final run, I tried to push a bit more and I was another two tenths up. Then I arrived to [Turn] 16/17 and when I had to short shift again, the engine just cut out, so I had to abort.”
Although Verstappen does not know if the lap would have been good enough to snatch pole, he has no doubts he would have gone quicker than his first run.
“If it was going to be enough to pole I am not so sure but at least it was going to be closer than three tenths,” he said. “I am already surprised to be second with all the issues I am having.
“The only thing I can say is it was a great qualifying, I think the best I have ever done and also the car was working really well. Definitely that put us second today.”
Despite the ongoing engine problems, Verstappen does not believe the troubles will carry over in to the race, when the engine runs with different settings.
“I think normally in the race you have to turn down the power,” he said. “It is just when you go to the limit of the engine where we seem to struggle somehow this weekend with it, with driveabilty and torque mapping and stuff.
“For example, yesterday in long runs I didn’t have a problem, and if it breaks it breaks, you cannot really change that. We will find out tomorrow.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14
Photo by: Manuel Goria / Sutton Images