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Max Verstappen barked “what the f**k is going on?” over his team radio as he struggled for pace during the first qualifying session for the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Dutchman was expected to challenge Lewis Hamilton for pole position but he was off the mark during the first 20-minute session.
Valtteri Bottas was the quickest, with Lando Norris and Hamilton completing the top three on the timesheets.
Nikita Mazepin, Michael Schumacher, Nicolas Latifi, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo were knocked out in Q1.
And Verstappen headed straight into the pits to get his power unit checked out as he struggled with “no straight-line speed”, as he informed his engineers over the radio.
After setting the 11th quickest lap in Q1, Verstappen did get out for Q2 to continue his hopes of starting the race from P1 and trying to deny Hamilton his 100th career pole.
Red Bull have closed the gap on Mercedes this year with Hamilton and Verstappen winning one race apiece.
Hamilton sits one point above his Dutch rival in the driver’s standings and he is expecting another exciting race weekend.
“I think it’ll be a close run,” Hamilton said. “We look like were close (in practice). I don’t know how Max’s lap was. Mine wasn’t perfect. We’ve definitely got some time to come from the car and some improvements to make.
“I’m sure they have too. But it’s close, as it has been the last couple of races, so it’s exciting.”
This year is expected to be Verstappen’s biggest title challenge of his career and he feels ready to put Hamilton to the sword.
“Every race is different of course, but I think we know how to fight for the title,” he said. “As a team and myself.
“You have to try to score points every weekend, even if you don’t finish first.
“You can’t afford to make big mistakes, especially with the gap between the two teams being so small. I think this (avoiding mistakes) is the most important thing.”
But if the title fight really heats up, could we see some collisions between two of the hottest drivers on the grid?
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“Hopefully not,” Verstappen explained. “I think we both have a lot of respect for each other and we will race hard against each other. But I think that’s normal too.
“To be honest, I’m not so concerned with that. I always focus on myself and try to get the best out of myself.
“Of course it looks like it’s between Lewis and me at the moment, but it’s still a long season and a lot of things can happen.”
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