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Max Verstappen

Verstappen: We’re not on the same level as Ferrari and Mercedes

Max Verstappen

Australian Grand Prix qualifying showed Red Bull are not yet on the same level as Formula One rivals Mercedes and Ferrari but Max Verstappen said he was not surprised.

“Basically I saw it coming after winter testing, this is the best we could do,” the 19-year-old Dutch driver told Sky Sports television on Saturday after he qualified fifth behind the two Mercedes and Ferraris for the season-opening race.

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Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 10th after spinning into the tyre wall in the final phase of the session without setting a time.

Verstappen said the car had a tricky balance and lacked pace, “We are still down on power but also, in terms of grip level and things, we are not on the same level compared to Ferrari and Mercedes yet.”

“The car is very sensitive to set-up changes. Sometimes you suffer oversteer and sometimes understeer and it’s been a variable weekend so far. We weren’t able to do a lot of laps so qualifying in fifth with a reasonable balance is pretty good.”

“Our best hope tomorrow is a clean start because we don’t have the pace to challenge the Ferraris and Mercedes. I’m realistic.”

He said Sunday’s race, with Lewis Hamilton on pole for Mercedes and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel also on the front row, could be a lonely one for him with a likely gap to the cars behind and in front.

Verstappen’s best lap of 1:23.485 seconds was 1.3 seconds slower than Hamilton’s pole time.

The Dutchman was more than half a second quicker than sixth fastest qualifier Romain Grosjean in the Haas.