Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has admitted that he is “surprised” to be on pole position for 2021 US Grand Prix.
Verstappen finished third quickest in FP3 after suffering a crack to his rear wing which left his mechanics frantically trying to glue his rear wing together in time for Qualifying.
Their efforts paid off because Verstappen was able to deliver blistering times throughout Qualifying and topped Q2 plus Q3, with his 1m 32.910 proving enough in the latter session to seal pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton by 0.209 seconds.
Reflecting on his Qualifying performance, Verstappen stated that he was “surprised” to secure pole position after failing to endure “the easiest of weekends so far” in which he failed to top any Practice session.
Explaining his issues throughout the weekend, Verstappen added: “I’ve been chasing the balance quite a bit so to pull that lap together in Q3 was of course really satisfying.
“I’m really pleased with the performance of the whole Team today and I’m glad we could finally pull it together for the final lap. We improved the balance and I felt a lot more comfortable in the car today compared to yesterday.”
Looking ahead to the race as he lines up on pole alongside title rival – Hamilton, Verstappen believes that his Qualifying pace could be “positive for the race”, although he is anticipating a “tough” race with hot track temperatures and tyre degradation which will place focus on tyre strategies.
Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez meanwhile topped FP3 but could only qualified third which left the Mexican “pleased” but not “100% satisfied” with his third place on the grid after a brief rain shower disrupted his final run in sector three, having initially looked set for pole after the first Q3 runs.
Perez though iterated that he is happy with how the weekend has unfolded so far, as he said: “I am taking a lot of confidence from this weekend because we’ve been really competitive and it just shows how hard we have been working behind the scenes to make this kind of progress and I expect to keep getting better.”
Team Principal, Christian Horner meanwhile is delighted with Red Bull’s “great” performance in Qualifying to snatch the first non-Mercedes pole for the US Grand Prix in this hybrid era, having been the last team themselves to take pole other than Mercedes here in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel.
Reflecting on the emotions of having Verstappen and Perez both fighting for pole in the final moments of Q3, Horner said: “It’s was probably Checo’s best qualifying this year in normal conditions, so we are really pleased with that.
“Checo had provisional pole and Max responded and managed to improve, so phenomenal performances from both our drivers.”