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Why Verstappen is missing his deadly qualifying edge in 2022

Despite starting at the front of the grid 10 times in 2021, Max Verstappen is yet to claim a pole position after three races of the 2022 season, and has complained of his car's performance in qualifying.

At one stage last season, Max Verstappen looked to have crowned himself as F1's new qualifying king. When the Red Bull driver claimed pole position at the Italian Grand Prix, it was his seventh in eight races as his World Championship push took off. In doing so, the Dutchman prevented the sport's most successful qualifier, Lewis Hamilton, from building on his 103 career poles. However, after three races of the 2022 season, Verstappen appears to have lost some of that qualifying edge. The 24-year-old was one-upped by Charles Leclerc in Bahrain, before being out-qualified by his own teammate, Sergio Perez, in Saudi Arabia. And in Australia, Verstappen saw Leclerc once again place his car at the front of the grid by a margin of close to three-tenths.

Verstappen admits qualifying has "not been great"

It could be argued that Verstappen's failure to clinch a pole position after the opening three rounds of the season is down to the undeniable pace of the Ferrari cars. The reigning World Champion has remained quick but seemingly lacked that cutting edge to elevate himself to the level of Leclerc and Ferrari. However, Verstappen has explained why there is more to the situation than meets the eye, pointing to a car that is struggling to reach its full potential on Saturdays. When asked if being better in race trim than during qualifying is a characteristic of Red Bull's new car, Verstappen told the media, including RacingNews365.com : "It's a little bit to do with it, yeah. So far, in qualifying, it's not been amazing. "I just struggle a lot with the balance of the car and it just doesn't give you the confidence to push. My first run in Q3 [in Australia] started to feel a bit better and I was actually hooking it up, but then I locked up again in one corner just because of a random balance shift." He added: "It's not been great, to be honest."

Red Bull facing problems with simulator-honed set-up

During his final Q3 run at Albert Park, Verstappen locked his brakes badly in Sector 3 and opened the door for Leclerc to find the crucial gains to snatch pole position. "It's just not a good balance, all the time. I'm chasing something and I never feel comfortable for one lap, except for the long runs," Verstappen explained. "When I come back after the Grand Prix [weekends], I go on the simulator and try to find a good base set-up, and all the time when I get to the track I face difficulties. "I need to understand why that is, because, at the moment, it's just not been very enjoyable."

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