AFP PHOTO

Max Verstappen made a “big statement” by beating both Ferrari and Mercedes to qualify on pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, according to his former Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo, now with Renault, was knocked out in Saturday’s Q2 session and was left to watch the final shootout from the paddock where he told reporters how impressed he was with the Dutchman’s scintillating lap.

“Not too bad, huh?” he said. “That’s fun! I’m still a fan of the sport so watching here it’s exciting. I want to be out there, but if I can’t be out there, I’m going to be a fan for 10 minutes.

“It’s never perfect, but it looked clean. They showed a bit of his on-board in the second sector and it looked clean.

“It’s a big statement for them to do it here in Brazil. I know he more or less won the race last year, but on one lap that’s a big performance.”

Verstappen, who had suggested Ferrari’s recent decline in qualifying pace may have been due to ‘cheating’ to gain extra power, topped all three qualifying sessions.

After Saturday’s session, Ferrari’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who starts second, hit back by pointedly noting Red Bull had shown exceptional straight-line speed.

Ferrari had reeled off six consecutive pole positions before the United States Grand Prix, though the final one of those, in Mexico, was courtesy of Verstappen being penalised.

– Fast straights –

AFP / DOUGLAS MAGNO Ferrari had taken pole position in the previous six races but Sebastian Vettel will only start from second at Interlagos

On Friday, at Interlagos, Ferrari were again very fast on the straights, but this was diminished on Saturday, a curiosity that re-focussed attention on the Italian team and led to Mercedes technical director James Allison observing it as “interesting”.

“I think they were still pretty useful on the straights,” said Allison.

“But not quite as marked as it was. That could be due to all sorts of things. We all run different power modes on a Friday.

“Probably the only thing that you could stand back from a distance and say is that it’s two races on the trot where it hasn’t been pole position for a Ferrari.

“And they, sort of, had a reasonably comfortable margin. So, it’s an interesting thing, but not anything you could draw any solid conclusions from.”

Allison added that Verstappen and Red Bull had “done a better job” to take pole position on a day when newly-crowned six-time champion Lewis Hamilton qualified third.

The Briton was later asked about his prospects of being given a knighthood in Britain to acknowledge his success, joining other motor racing knights including former drivers Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart and team owner Frank Williams.

“I don’t really like to think too much about it,” said Hamilton.

“Just the fact that people have mentioned it, it’s already an honour, but it’s not been something that I’ve been chasing in my life.”

Hamilton was given an MBE after claiming his first title in 2008.

SOURCEAFP
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