Verstappen pinning hopes on Red Bull race pace

Sat Oct 1, 2016 3:23pm EDT
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By Abhishek Takle

SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Max Verstappen hoped Red Bull’s race day performance would allow him to take the fight to champions Mercedes after he qualified third for Sunday’s Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.

The Dutch driver, who turned 19 on Friday, was the best of the rest after Lewis Hamilton -- on pole position -- and championship-leading Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg locked out the front row.

Verstappen’s fastest lap was more than half a second slower than triple world champion Hamilton’s benchmark time and a little over a tenth down on Rosberg’s error-riddled fastest effort.

But Red Bull, who have Australian Daniel Ricciardo starting alongside Verstappen in fourth place, looked strong during the race simulations carried out in practice.

"Yeah, long run pace looked promising,” said Verstappen, who became Formula One’s youngest-ever winner when he won the Spanish Grand Prix in May on his Red Bull debut after moving from sister team Toro Rosso.

"I think the whole weekend has been quite positive for me.

"We definitely made some changes after Singapore and it seems to work," added Verstappen, who finished sixth after a poor start dropped him down the field in the previous race through the floodlit streets of the city state.

Both Red Bull drivers have an effectively fresh set of soft compound tyres available to them in the race, having done only a slow lap on them in qualifying.   Continued...

Formula One - Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay, Singapore - 17/9/16 Red Bull's driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands in action during third practice. REUTERS/Jeremy Lee