Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Beating Hamilton to pole position “a tiny bit of a surprise” for Verstappen

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen admitted he felt some surprise at taking pole position for the United States Grand Prix following Mercedes’ strong start to the event on Friday.

The Red Bull driver was almost a second slower than the Mercedes pair in first practice at the Circuit of the Americas, with the rest of the field half a second or more further behind.

“After FP1, I was a bit like, oh, okay, it’s quite a big gap,” Verstappen said after taking pole position. “But then I think slowly we just improved a bit. And then today we seem to jump ahead because that’s a great effort from the whole team.”

However Verstappen hasn’t been entirely comfortable at the wheel of his RB16B this weekend, particularly when running the soft tyre in qualifying.

“It was a little bit up and down, I would say, just getting to the limit of the car,” he said. “It felt a little bit more difficult for me this whole weekend so far to try and get that last bit out of it.

“Even in qualifying I had to work up to it. On the mediums, actually, I felt really good. I think in Q2 that was a good lap and it seemed like it suited me a bit more in terms of driving.

“Then the first run in Q3, again, it wasn’t perfect. I just couldn’t really get the same out of it in terms of feeling compared to Q2. So then I had to dig deep in Q3 run two.

His final run was complicated by a few spots of rain. “It started spitting a bit on [my] visor in the last sector so it wasn’t ideal,” said Verstappen. “But to be on pole of course is great, especially in a weekend so far where, like I said, it was a bit more difficult to find that last bit.”

Red Bull had previously talked up Mercedes’ chances at the Texas circuit. Verstappen admitted beating Hamilton to pole position wasn’t entirely expected.

“Maybe [it’s] a tiny bit of a surprise,” he said. “But you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit through the whole season. Luckily, it’s still doing that.”

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However he doesn’t believe Red Bull’s showing in Austin proves they will hold the upper hand at coming races.

“I’m of course happy with the performance we have had today,” he said. “Let’s find out tomorrow in the race if it’s again a different story. And then, of course, we’ll move on again to the next race and that can be again a different story.

“You can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend, but you still need to pay attention to every single detail to try and make it work. It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out. And that’s what happened to us, for example, in Turkey.”

Verstappen drew satisfaction from his ninth pole position of the season because it had been one of the more challenging ones to achieve.

“Normally I always feel very comfortable in the car and I usually get up to speed,” he said. “But it just seemed on this track, this weekend it has been a bit more difficult.

“But it can’t be smooth all the time, right? That also makes it challenging and fun because otherwise it gets boring if it’s always too easy.

“I think as a team we worked very well together. They also tried to help me out to try and improve and at the end to then just put it together in Q3 it is, of course, what you want. It’s not always what you get, but it worked out this this weekend.”

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Beating Hamilton to pole position “a tiny bit of a surprise” for Verstappen”

  1. Ya ya, either Red Bulls sandbags were overweight at FP1 or Mercedes forgotten to remove their sandbags.

  2. I saw that LH was trying too hard.. I have not seen him usbually throw the car around the corners like that..

    Its really game on this year. Current vs future emperor.

    Love it..

  3. It seems Mercedes are not light seconds faster than RedBull… Great for us. I hope we dont see a first lap crash again.

    1. If for the third time, then racing incident.

  4. For all the commentary about how one team is so far ahead of the other, things look pretty evenly matched going into the race.

    1. @red-andy Red Bull do this every Friday. If you see the Formula 1 Friday analysis it’s always striking how, fuel corrected, Red Bull is shown not to be slower at all as they pretend on Friday.

      So we went from “are they using their engine boost system” to omg it’s the rear suspension” “to “oh wait we were actually fastest again after we made a good step”

      That “making of steps” also adds to the confusion though. It feels like Verstappen is generally really poor at getting his car setup in order. Perez was on it much earlier again. Either Verstappen gets it right at the last minute or not and then pretends Mercedes had the faster car.

      1. Hahaha, lol.
        So the learned by the masters then.

  5. Surprising indeed based on practice form.

    1. Davethechicken
      24th October 2021, 8:42

      Do you mean that Perez wasn’t on pole ahead of Max? As he was fastest in P2 and P3? Or that Merc weren’t further behind with ferrari and McLaren ahead?
      Based on practice.

  6. I just want to acknowledge this fabulous crowd we have here, the best crowd of any race ever, these people are fantastic.

    Yeah we got it, and even after years and years of racing it still sounds sincere and spontaneous, not at all scripted or predictable.

    1. LOL. It also annoys me when he does that but the crowd seems to like it so I guess he is sincere.

    2. @Erik

      It’s not just him, but US culture. Danica Patrick’s questioning was very American in a similar way.

    3. Ahaha, this time he’s right though, a great crowd in the US!

    4. Have you ever been to a concert? Did you not relish the band telling the crowd, including YOU, they were the best crowd, during the whole tour? Guess what, they told the crowd at the next gig the same…

      It’s just showbiz…

  7. I think it was a surprise for everyone since Mercedes can run more downforce because of their new suspension trick, but then Hamilton apologized to the team after qualifying so must also have made a mistake.

    1. And they even sacrificed bottas during the second stint to gave Lewis a tow on the long straight. problably worth 2 tenth.

      1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
        24th October 2021, 14:21

        Bottas was 8s in front of Hamilton, I doubt you’d get much of a tow at that distance!
        With the way S1 and S3 is you don’t want to be anywhere near the car in front, the only viable tow option is to go full Alonso and hang around just for the straight.

  8. I think this qualifying result is a bit of surprise to everybody. Is this related to Mercedes struggling with the reliability and engine penalty’s? It is strange that Bottas needs an other engine again so maybe they are pushing it to much

    1. @grapmg I wonder/speculate if there is a hint in something TW said about their concerns of heavy bottoming out on this bumpy track. Perhaps they can’t use their innovation of lowering the car to stall out the diffuser for that reason, and rather have to keep their car higher which no longer allows for the stall, thus taking something off their straight-line speeds. I can’t seem to find the speed trap speeds for Qualifying to support or refute that either way.

  9. Funny thing is that the mega lap Max did wasn’t his fastest in all sectors. But he did really pull one out of the bag with that one.. All fp3 and q1 and q2 it was incredibly close with Hamilton and Perez and then at the last possible moment this lap… Wow, must be one of his best laps in qualifying ever.

    1. Nope. Maxsaid his Q2 lap was better. Perezactually met up on some spot of rain I thinm.

  10. So was the Redbulls faster, or Hamilton slower?

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