Australian Grand Prix – Red Bull Racing will start the race with one car down in seventeenth place after a misjudgement left Pierre Gasly out in Q1.
Gasly’s Red Bull debut will begin towards the back of the grid after he was eliminated from the opening part of qualifying.
With Red Bull sending both of their drivers out for two timed laps on a harder grade of tyre, his lap time of 1:23.020 – set on his opening lap – was considered enough for Gasly to progress into the second section of the qualifying hour, without having to use a set of the softer tyres.
However, Red Bull misjudged the level of track evolution, and improvements for the rest of the field resulted in Gasly falling down to seventeenth place and out of Q1.
Speaking after qualifying, Gasly said the track evolution was ‘unexpected’ but he still anticipated being able to recover and challenge for points on his Red Bull debut.
“I had a bit of traffic in Turn 1 but apart from that, I was quite happy with my Q1 lap. We went for one run whilst most others went for two and it cost us,” said Gasly.
“I think we’ve been quite optimistic as we didn’t expect such track evolution and the pack to be so close. We’re not exactly where we’d like to be but session after session we’re going in the right direction.
“There were not many overtakes at last year’s race so starting from where we are, it’s going to be difficult but we will of course try and make it into the points. It’s a tough day today but we need to stay positive. For me, tomorrow will be all about gaining experience in the car and recovering positions.”
Team-mate Verstappen survived the Q1 scare with a similar strategy and went on to qualify in between the Ferraris in fourth place, commenting afterwards that their lack of long-runs in practice means their race pace is still unknown.
“It has been tricky finding a good balance and we are of course not where we want to be in terms of the gap,” said Verstappen, “but we also have to be realistic and happy with this grid position. Fourth is better than we expected going into qualifying.
“It’s difficult to say where we will be tomorrow and I didn’t get to do a full long run on Friday, but it looks like the tyres are holding on quite well, so as long as we get a clean start, we will find out what we can really do.”