Max Verstappen said he was not surprised by the pace shown by Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Sprint at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Hamilton has taken a new power unit in Brazil so will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s grand prix, but he will start first in the Sprint after being more than 0.4s quicker than Verstappen on Friday. Despite that, the championship leader says he was expecting to see the Mercedes take a step forward as a result of the fresh engine.
“When they take a new engine naturally they have a bit more power for a weekend so for me it’s not a big shock,” Verstappen said. “I am just happy to be second — that’s a good position to start from. Of course you always want to be closer but sometimes you just have to be realistic and there wasn’t much more in it.
“It just looked like it was a bit more tricky for us but I’m still happy of course to be second. We’ll see (how the Sprint goes), there are not that many points to gain so we just need keep it clean because Sunday is way more important.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Sky it was clear that Hamilton would hold a clear advantage from an early stage on Friday.
“We saw from this morning that Lewis was very, very strong,” Horner said, “That fresh engine is obviously pumping out some horsepower for them. I think second was the best that we could hope for and so to be up there on the front row, we’re OK with that.
“It’s difficult for us to be able to predict (the gain), but if you look at the relative speed compared to Valtteri (Bottas), it’s a couple of tenths. That’s obviously why they’ve chosen to take it here. But it’s a sprint race and we’ve got qualifying tomorrow for the Sunday race.”