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Verstappen 'deserves' fourth in China F1 sprint qualifying with wet struggles

Max Verstappen felt Red Bull "deserve to be where we are" having struggled to get the tyres in the right window in the wet Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix sprint qualifying.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Having claimed every pole position so far in the 2024 F1 season, Verstappen looked strong favourite again after topping Q2 of sprint qualifying in the dry.

But as rain fell at the Shanghai International Circuit it produced a major unknown given no driver had any wet running at a track F1 had not visited for five years.

With multiple drivers slipping off the track in Q3, Verstappen had two lap times deleted for off-track moments triggered by the wet conditions.

The reigning F1 world champion's best clean lap placed him fourth on the grid for the Chinese GP sprint race, but he was over two seconds slower than polesitter Lando Norris for McLaren.

Verstappen conceded he was unable to get the intermediate tyres in the best operating temperature window in the top 10 shootout and it left him feeling like he was "driving on ice".

"It was incredibly slippery, I struggled a lot to get the temperature into the tyres so that is why it is very difficult to keep the car on track," Verstappen said.

"It never really switched on for me so it was like driving on ice. That is why I think we deserve to be where we are after qualifying.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

"Because it was not really working for me in the wet, even though in the dry I think we look quite good. So, of course, I am quite happy with that."

Looking ahead to the first sprint race of the season, Verstappen expects to be at a disadvantage starting on the left-hand side of the grid as it is off the racing line compared to the polesitter and odd-numbered starters on the grid.

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Despite starting down in fourth and the unfavoured side of the grid, if the sprint race is dry Verstappen hopes to make progress up the order using Red Bull's superior tyre life management over the 19-lap sprint race.

"It is not ideal to start on the inside here, it is a lot lower grip on the left compared to the right with this painted stuff on the tarmac," he explained. "We have to try and have the best start possible.

"Then it is going to be quite a long stint on one set of tyres in the sprint but that makes it quite interesting."

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