Verstappen frustrated despite front row position

MELBOURNE : Formula One world champion Max Verstappen secured a front row start for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday but decried a “terrible” weekend with the Red Bull car after being pipped for pole position by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc was nearly three-tenths of a second quicker than Verstappen around the upgraded Albert Park circuit in the final phase of qualifying, leaving the Dutchman fuming.

“It’s been terrible for me all weekend so far,” said Verstappen of the RB18’s performance.

“It’s just been a big struggle and clearly we didn’t really seem to fix it even in qualifying. I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car,” he said.

“It just doesn’t give you confidence to push … So it’s not been great to be honest.”

Race officials removed one of the circuit’s four DRS zones, which encourage overtaking, after a safety review in the wake of Friday practice.

With Red Bull having shown superior straight-line speed to Ferrari, Verstappen was unimpressed with the decision.

“Taking away one DRS zone it’s going to be harder,” he said.

“I don’t know why they took it away because it was much safer than what we did in Jeddah, for example.

“So it’s a bit of a mystery to me why we don’t have it. But yeah, we’ll give it our best.”

His team mate Sergio Perez qualified third but his grid position might be affected after being summoned by stewards for allegedly failing to slow down when yellow flags were out during qualifying.

Team boss Christian Horner was confident Mexican Perez would be cleared, though, saying the data showed Perez had eased off on the throttle.

Overall, Horner was bullish about Red Bull’s position and said Ferrari might struggle over the distance on Sunday.

“It looks they’ll have a bit of a headache with all that bouncing going on,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough with them tomorrow, we know they’ve got a very, very quick car, but I still think we can race them and we’ll see how powerful these DRS zones are.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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