Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes that Max Verstappen’s final effort in qualifying that delivered a spot on the front row of the Russian GP grid, was one of his best laps of the season.
Verstappen was the last driver to complete his final run in Q3, but the Dutchman’s timing was near perfect as he benefitted from a healthy tow provided by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, the man he would demote from second place.
“He was pretty smart,” said Horner. “He waited for Bottas to pass him on the end of his qualifying lap and then started his lap, benefiting from a good tow from Valtteri.
“And that gave him a tenth on the run down to Turn One, and then obviously he had to make it all stick for the rest of the lap. And it was an unbelievable lap, really one of the best laps he’s driven this season, I would say.”
However, perhaps the defining moment for Verstappen in qualifying took place in Q2, when the action resumed after a red flag halt caused by Sebastian Vettel’s crash.
Verstappen head back out on the soft tyre just in case he would need to ensure his safe passage into Q3, but the Red Bull pitwall ultimately told its driver to abort the lap at the very end to guarantee his start on Sunday afternoon on the medium tyre.
A soft-shod Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen will therefore start their race on different compounds, and subsequently follow different strategies.
“We aborted the lap with Max, which enabled him to start on the medium tyre,” explained Horner.
“It was a late call, but it was the right call, and that gives him a good tyre for the start of the grand prix tomorrow. It was in Turn 18, it doesn’t get any more knife-edge than that!
“He’s done a super job today to split the Mercedes pair, and of course, starting on a different tyre to Lewis, we’ll see how that strategy pans out tomorrow.
“If Lewis gets a decent start and we have a nice tow then I don’t think anybody would be too upset about that. But we saw in the F2 race the pole sitter was able to lead into Turn One if you get a good start.”
Read also: Verstappen: Run to P2 ‘one of my best qualifying laps’ ever
Despite Verstappen’s outstanding performance in qualifying, Horner admitted that Red Bull’s weekend at Sochi has so far not been easy.
“It’s felt very bitsy,” he said. “So far, we’ve seen flashes of promise, but we haven’t managed to put a lap together because of traffic and red flags and all kinds of incidents.
“But Max was more confident than anybody going into that qualifying session, and he really delivered.
“Alex [Albon] did a good job to get himself into into Q3. And then unfortunately, was just at the wrong end of the group, a couple of tenths could have made life look very different for him.”
Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers
Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter
Click Here: Putters