Max Verstappen has ruled out challenging Mercedes and Ferrari for pole position in Brazil.
Red Bull showed strong pace throughout Friday practice with Verstappen topping the first session. The Dutchman’s running in the afternoon session was curtailed by an oil leak which left him in the garage for approximately one hour.
Verstappen’s true pace in FP2 was hidden by the fact he was blocked by the Williams of Lance Stroll in the final sector, eventually ending up fifth overall, 0.4s down on Valtteri Bottas, who set the pace in second practice.
Reflecting on the events of Friday practice, Verstappen said: “So we had the oil leak so the engine had to come off. Of course it takes a bit of time to fix that, mount the engine back and stuff so it was a bit of a rushed programme for us so it wasn’t ideal. Where we were in second practice is not a real picture but still in qualifying I don’t think we have a chance but after that, the race pace was quite OK. It’s definitely looking more positive than last year.
“No I don’t think for pole because as soon as they open their engines in qualifying, in Q3, then we are struggling. As soon as we have a bit of a good pace in the race, maybe we can do a different strategy or whatever and we will see. Hopefully we can still fight for a podium.”
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo agreed that back-to-back pole positions for Red Bull in 2018 is unlikely given the power advantage Mercedes and Ferrari enjoy in the first and third sectors. The Australian will serve a five-place grid penalty after taking Red Bull was forced to change his turbocharger meaning he will not be able to start from pole even if he is able to set the fastest time in qualifying.
“Pole is probably a bit of a stretch in these conditions. I think this afternoon we had a decent car and we are three tenths off so it’s a bit much,” Ricciardo added. ”It’s likely that the others will turn [it] up tomorrow, so pole is probably a bit of a stretch but the race pace seemed solid.”