Max Verstappen Irked by “tricky” 2021 Sao Paulo Sprint Qualifying

(Image credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has revealed that he was irked by a “tricky” 2021 Sao Paulo Sprint Qualifying as he finished second, despite extending his championship lead to 21 points over Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen experienced a hectic day after being hauled to the steward office shortly after arrival at the circuit to explain himself, following a post-Qualifying incident where he touched the rear wing of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton against parc-ferme rules.

Luckily, Verstappen escaped with a £42.6K fine once the stewards’ verdict was announced following FP2 where he finished second fastest behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, whilst he also gained pole position after Hamilton was disqualified for a technical infringement.

Sprint Qualifying though saw a mixture of tyre choices as Red Bull put Verstappen and Sergio Perez on the medium tyres, whilst Valtteri Bottas started second on the soft tyres which Verstappen admitted made him realise keeping position would be “quite tricky” at the start.

Verstappen’s realisation proved true as Bottas got an electric start to snatch the lead into the Senna S as Verstappen battled Carlos Sainz, which saw him forced wide at Turn Four and forced to settle into third.

Verstappen though was able to clear Sainz at the start of Lap Four but struggled to reel Bottas in and reclaim the lead, despite finding himself within DRS range on several occasions in the closing stages as he settled for two points which extended his title lead to 21 points as Hamilton finished fifth.

Explaining his Sprint Qualifying battle, Verstappen said: “After the first lap we had good pace but it’s hard to overtake here and the tyres overheat a lot so there’s not much you can do so I ended up sitting behind.

“At the end of the day I always try to do the best I can and it was good to score a few points today.”

Verstappen though is aware that the main race is where the main points are handed out with pit strategies entering the mix on top of “warmer” weather forecast, which he hopes “will be better for us but it’s difficult to say at the moment.”

Perez meanwhile finished fourth after spending the entire race failing to get back into the top three after being leapfrogged by Sainz off the line, with the Mexican pointing to his poor exits out of the final corner as his main issue.

Reflecting on what was his biggest issues in the Sprint Qualifying, Perez commented: “The main issue I was having today was that Sainz was always getting a good exit out of the final corner while my tyres were overheating. The straight-line speed of the Ferrari was quite strong too.”

Like Verstappen, Perez is focused on the main 71-lap race with the Mexican confident that he “can take more risks” than he was able to in the Sprint, which he felt would of been too dangerous for his liking once weighed up the risk vs rewards aspect.

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