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Helmut Marko

Verstappen sprint qualifying issue 'inexplicable' – Marko

Red Bull will not start on the front row of the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race following a disappointing end to sprint qualifying.

Verstappen and Marko Japan
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To news overview © XPBimages

Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko has revealed that Max Verstappen encountered an "inexplicable" issue during sprint qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix, in that his car "almost" lost temperature.

Whilst it is normal for tyres to lose temperature on a wet and cold surface like was the case at the Shanghai International Circuit, losing car temperature is considerably less common.

With rain having started in the closing seconds of SQ2, the intermediate tyres were fitted in SQ3, with getting the tyres in the right window having been critical.

Verstappen and Sergio Perez both made errors in the tricky conditions, resulting in the pair ultimately qualifying fourth and sixth respectively for Saturday's sprint race.

Generating temperature was not a problem for Perez who simply made mistakes during SQ3 whereas for Verstappen, it was almost impossible, as explained by Marko.

"The crucial thing was that you get the temp in the tyres," Marko told Servus TV.

"Best example, Hamilton, at first he slipped around hopelessly, then changed tyres, probably with higher air pressure, suddenly competitive. We had almost identical air pressures in both cars.

"Nevertheless, Checo improved with every second, he was also competitive, could have been at the front without slipping up. But Max just didn't get any temp, we don't know why."

Rain this weekend was a big fear amongst the paddock given that the circuit has seen practically zero use since the last F1 race there in 2019.

A layer of bitumen on the circuit meant that rain turned it into an ice rink, similar to what the drivers experienced in the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix.

Whilst this would explain tyre temperature loss, it does not explain to Red Bull why Verstappen's RB20 lost temperature.

"The track has not had any decisive races with rubber abrasion for 5 years," said Marko. [It's a] combination of all of this.

"Still, it's inexplicable to us why a car's temps rise as they should, but with Max it's almost the opposite, it almost dropped."

Issues with the Dutchman's car were actually discovered during free practice ahead of sprint qualifying.

However, these were fixed and the changes worked well particularly in the dry, giving the Milton Keynes-based side belief that they can be competitive in any conditions on Saturday.

"In the dry sessions we were at the front," added Marko. "[We] found errors in Max's car, also changed small things, [which] had a positive effect.

"So optimistic that if tomorrow's quali will be wet that we'll find a reason why we couldn't get the tyre temps right."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying