Max Verstappen once again will be the David taking on the Goliath in Sunday’s first edition of the Tuscan Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver versus Mercedes after running them close at the splendid Mugello circuit on Saturday afternoon.
While Mercedes hogged the top two spots on the timing screens at the end of qualifying, as they have in pretty much every session this year, Verstappen was only three-tenths shy of the Black Arrows pair and comfortably best of the rest.
Next up was his teammate Alex Albon making it an all blue front row the Thai driver four-tenths down on his the #33 car for the ninth time in as many races.
On a track which can be described as something of a mini-Spa-Francorchamps, with a sprinkling of Red Bull Ring, Max is confident he can be stronger in race trim.
He said in his post-qualy report, “We are the closest we have been to Mercedes in qualifying so we can be happy about that and also the gap to the competition behind us is bigger. I have good hopes for the race.
“It is always difficult to predict whether we can fight for the win but I feel a bit more confident than some other weekends. We have quite decent top speed which I think is good around here and although it won’t be easy to pass at least the last few corners are quite wide and long so you can take a few different lines if you have the pace to follow.
“Strategy-wise as it is a new track we will find out a lot during the race, especially about the tyres as track temperatures are going to be quite high tomorrow. A Mercedes is never easy to overtake but we will give it all we have and I love this track so I’m really looking forward to the race.”
Albon was again no match for the Dutchman in terms of pace, but he was pleased with the end-result, “Qualifying fourth is my career best so I’m happy as we are making constant progress. Spa was good, Monza was better and here so far has been another step forward.
“Obviously, there’s still some time to find but we’re consistently getting better and I think without the yellow flags in the last Q3 run we would have gone even quicker.”
Team chief Christian Horner was also chuffed, “It’s great to have both drivers up on the second row in qualifying with Max third and Alex fourth and we extracted the most out of the car today.
“We [Max] were just a couple of tenths shy of Mercedes but it was one of the closest sessions this year and hopefully we can race well from there. Alex has had a strong weekend with his best F1 qualifying result to date which will provide him with confidence ahead of the race,” added the Red Bull team boss.