Verstappen: Red Bull getting closer to Mercedes

By Chris Myson 10 October 2020 10
Verstappen: Red Bull getting closer to Mercedes

Max Verstappen believes his qualifying performance for the Eifel Grand Prix was further evidence Red Bull are closing the gap to Mercedes in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Verstappen narrowly behind those two in third after showing impressive pace throughout qualifying.

After putting Mercedes' record of taking every 2020 pole under serious threat, finishing just 0.292 seconds behind Bottas and an agonising 0.037s adrift of Hamilton, the Dutchman was in an optimistic mood.

Indeed, he had felt the Red Bull could have gone even better had he not lost grip at the end of Q3.

"It was an interesting qualifying," he said. "Overall, I think we are getting closer towards Mercedes, which is very positive.

"It was a decent qualifying – it was just in Q3 when it really mattered we were understeering too much.

"When it's so cold and you're understeering so much, you're graining the front tyres, eating up the rubber, which cost me a bit of lap time.

"In a way, I am a little bit disappointed as I was expecting a little bit more [in qualifying] but it is what it is and overall I can still be happy."

On whether he also expected to challenge Mercedes in the race, when Red Bull are typically stronger, Verstappen added: "I hope so.

"It's going to be even colder on Sunday, so it will be even more interesting as to what the tyres are going to do and how they are going to behave, so let's see.

"The track is fun to drive. Just looking forward to it and seeing what we can do."

Hamilton was on pole the last time there was an F1 race at the Nurburgring in 2013 and acknowledged unknowns for Sunday, particularly after bad weather meant there was no practice running at all on Friday.

Bottas won in Russia last time out, so this will be British driver Hamilton's second attempt to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 race wins.

Asked what could make the difference, Hamilton said: "It's the graining, how the tyres behave, whether it's a one-stop or two-stop race, how long the tyres will go, the start, whether there is safety car... there is a lot to play for so I need to get my head down.

"Going behind a safety car in these conditions will be tough. It's an amazing circuit, one of the historic circuits we have, so definitely great to be back here.

"When I look at the data there will be plenty of time [I could have gained]. Valtteri is obviously two tenths ahead so he did a good job and congratulations to him."

Pole-sitter Bottas is looking to achieve back-to-back wins for the first time.

"It's such a nice feeling when you get it done the last lap, with the last chance," said Bottas. "The last lap in Q3 was spot on. Just what I needed and it was nice to get it together.

"It's been pretty tricky with short practice and these conditions getting the tyres in the sweet spot on the out lap, that was one of the bigger things.

"Of course I believe I can win. That's the only goal and hopefully we can have a good start."

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Chris Myson