P4 ‘deserved’ as Verstappen struggles for tire temperature

Max Verstappen says he was unable to qualify better than fourth for the Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix because he struggled for tire temperature in wet conditions.

Rain arrived during SQ2 at the Shanghai International Circuit, and left a fully wet track for the final part of the qualifying session as the top-10 drivers secured their starting positions for Saturday’s Sprint. Verstappen went off track on more than one occasion on the low-grip surface, and says he couldn’t extract the grip from his tires as effectively as he qualified behind Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

“It was incredibly slippery,” Verstappen said. “I struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tires — it was very difficult to keep the car on track, and it never really switched on for me. It was just like driving on ice.

“That’s why I think it was quite deserved, where we are in qualifying, because it’s not really working for me in the wet, even though I think the dry we look quite good. So of course I’m quite happy with that (part).”

While Verstappen still feels he’s close enough to the front to fight for victory given the performance of the Red Bull in the dry, he says he has one further challenge at the start of the Sprint to negotiate before he can use that pace.

“It’s not ideal to start on the inside here — there’s a lot lower grip, left to right with this like painted stuff on the tarmac. We have to try and have the best start possible. Then of course it’s going to be quite a long stint on one set of tires in the Sprint, but that makes it quite interesting again.”

Verstappen’s feeling was echoed by Carlos Sainz — still within a race victory of Verstappen in the drivers’ championship — as the Spaniard also had tire-related issues in the wet.

“It was a bit of a mixed session,” Sainz said. “We made it well through SQ1 and SQ2 and then in SQ3 the rain arrived and we didn’t manage to switch on the tires. Around here we were struggling a lot with the rear tire, we dropped the tire (temperature) a lot queuing, and then the tire never came up so I couldn’t really push.

“So, two or three seconds off the pole in P5, which just shows that in these conditions you either switch on the tire or you don’t. Anyway, it seems that both cars struggled with tire temperature and warm-up, so if it’s wet tomorrow we will need to find something. If it’s dry, we are more or less in the mix.”

Story originally appeared on Racer