Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2022

‘We should have finished the penultimate lap’: How Verstappen’s Q3 went wrong

2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen looked on course to claim a vital pole position in Singapore when he sensationally aborted his final lap.

That left him only eighth on the grid in a car which was clearly quick enough for pole position. But as team principal Christian Horner explained later, the team faced a choice between that or starting from the pit lane.

As the final seconds of qualifying on the damp-but-drying Marina Bay circuit ticked down, the realisation had dawned on the Red Bull pit wall that they hadn’t put enough fuel in Verstappen’s car.

He likely had sufficient fuel to make it to the finishing line, but not enough to make it back to the pits and provide the required one-litre sample. Crossing the line and running dry on track isn’t an option, as the rules state “if a car has not been driven back to the pits under its own power, it will be required to supply the […] sample plus the amount of fuel that would have been consumed to drive back to the pits.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2022
Red Bull hadn’t run slicks on the drying track before Q3
As Q3 began the seven teams participating all faced the same challenge of deciding the fuel loads for a 12-minute session in which the track was damp but drying rapidly. Getting the fuel weight right is especially important at a track like Singapore as every extra kilogram is a costly penalty to carry in the repeated acceleration and braking zones.

However the quicker a car goes in qualifying, the more laps it can complete. In an ordinary dry session teams perform two separate runs and the car can be refuelled in between them when it is pulled into the garage. But with the track conditions improving so quickly, and the threat of a yellow flag which could disrupt proceedings at any moment, circumstances were different in Singapore.

Red Bull didn’t judge them quite right. As team principal Christian Horner explained, their estimate of the fuel they would need for Verstappen to do his five ‘push’ laps and one cool-down lap was slightly off.

“The track was ramping up and we assumed five laps would be the maximum we could do but as we came up to the flying lap, fuel was too close to the limit,” he said.

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Verstappen’s radio messages during Q3

Verstappen was the first driver out as Q3 began

Red Bull tried to maximise Verstappen’s running time by sending him out first of all 10 drivers in Q3. He gained over two seconds per lap on his first runs as the track conditions improved rapidly.

LambiaseVerstappen arrives at the pit lane exit before the start of Q3.
35 seconds.
LambiaseOkay looks like the majority of the cars on the soft, Max. That’s five seconds. Recharge on.
LambiaseMagnussen and Tsunoda behind you on inters but maintain track position.
LambiaseAll other cars on slick tyres.
LambiaseMax we believe Stroll’s lap at the end of Q2 was a mistake at 16.
LambiaseOkay just a reminder again, best of the conditions at the end.
LambiaseMax mode four we will push for two more laps after this. Mode four.
LambiaseAnd strat five.
LambiaseSo confirm Max we will push for two more laps then slow then push.
VerstappenYeah. We need to build up temperature. We need to keep pushing for now.
LambiaseOkay Max recharge on, recharge on.

At one point, having told Verstappen to do a slow lap, Red Bull made a late call to convert it into a push lap. However the decision came too late for Verstappen, who had already begun to back off.

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After that Red Bull tell him they intend to end the session with two consecutive fast laps.

LambiaseStrat eight, strat eight and mode two, mode two, Max. So what we’re looking at here is a push, slow, push from here. Tyre temps are coming up nicely.
LambiaseVerstappen reaches the end of his next push lap and is told to keep pushing. But he receives the messages too late and has already backed off.
Keep pushing, Max.
VerstappenMate, what the fuck? Way too late.
LambiaseRed Bull plan to do two final push laps at the end of the session which will ensure Verstappen is one of the last drivers to begin his flying lap
Okay, understand. Calm down. So if the charge lap is less than 25 seconds slower than the timed, then we’ve got time for two push laps.
VerstappenMake sure the battery can do that.
LambiaseOkay so the switch settings we are in are now good for two consecutive laps. So you’re currently P2 on a 51.4, Hamilton’s P1 on a 51.0, Checo on a 51.7. So just to confirm we are expecting two push laps from here to the end. I suspect…
VerstappenOkay. Gaps in front of me?
LambiaseI suspect you will be probably the last person to take the chequered flag on your final push. So just Gasly ahead of you.

Verstappen has Pierre Gasly ahead of him, and wants to drop back to avoid catching the AlphaTauri on a flying lap. However Lambiase warns him that if he drops too far back he may not have enough to time to finish his last run.

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VerstappenTell me, do you want a little bit of a gap?
LambiaseNo, we’ve got five seconds margin for the two laps, Max.
VerstappenVerstappen sees Gasly entering turn 18 and realises he’s too close to the AlphaTauri.
He’s slowing down.
LambiaseUnderstood. So at the moment it’s two minutes 20 remaining. Obviously it’s 1’50 for a timed lap. You’ve got time, I think.
VerstappenWhat do you want me to do?
LambiaseGive a gap to Gasly. Give a gap to Gasly. I’ll tell you when to go.

Verstappen makes a mistake on his penultimate lap and backs off, knowing he still has time to do a final flying lap. However he is unaware that he doesn’t have enough fuel for it, and by the time the team realise, it’s too late.

“Rather than start from the pit lane, we elected to abort the lap which was a frustrating call for Max and for the whole team,” said Horner. “It relegates him to eighth but that is obviously better than starting from the pit lane.”

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LambiaseVerstappen begins his penultimate lap
Okay. Let’s go.
LambiaseVerstappen makes a mistake at turn 16 and backs off. Lambiase spots it and tells him to prepare for his final effort
Okay, Max, we’ve got 15 seconds margin. We can increase the gap to Gasly. Increase gap to Gasly. Recharge on, mode one. Recharge on, mode one. I’ll let you know where to go.
VerstappenTell me when to go, yeah.
Lambiase23 seconds, still. 20 seconds. Strat one. And let’s go, Max. P1 currently a 49.4, that’s two seconds below your time.
LambiaseHaving had no previous warning about his fuel situation, as Verstappen approaches the final corners he is told to abandon his lap.
Box, Max! Box, box, box, box, box.
VerstappenWhy? What the… why? What the fuck? What the fuck?

Frustratingly for Verstappen, his team mate Sergio Perez managed to do one lap more than him. Afterwards Verstappen said the team hadn’t been sure he would be able to do another flying lap at the end of the session – an indication they underestimated how quickly the track would improve.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Singapore, 2022
Verstappen’s penultimate lap might have put him on pole
“We couldn’t finish the push lap today because we wouldn’t have had enough fuel in the car, it was a mistake that we didn’t see coming throughout the session,” he said. “We were a little surprised by the additional lap at the end, we didn’t expect to have to do that.”

The lack of fuel was especially costly for Verstappen because he had abandoned his penultimate effort and the lap before that one was a slow run. The 1’51.395 which put him eighth on the grid was over two seconds slower than his theoretical ultimate lap based on his sector times.

In retrospect, Verstappen admitted he should not have abandoned his penultimate lap. Even with his slight error at turn 16 he suspects it could have been good enough for first place, particularly as pole-winner Charles Leclerc made an error on his final lap.

“I was on for a good lap when I aborted before starting the last lap, it might have been pole. In hindsight we should have finished the penultimate lap, instead I had to abort two laps, but hindsight is a great thing.”

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2022 Singapore Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “‘We should have finished the penultimate lap’: How Verstappen’s Q3 went wrong”

  1. Why the reference to Stroll’s Q2 lap?

    1. @frood19
      Remember that not all the radio messages get published, so that might have been in response to a previous (unpublished) question. There would have been a conversation while in the garage between Q2 and Q3. If Stroll was off his normal pace they might have wanted to know why. Actually I have no idea what the real answer is…. :)

    2. He was the first to try slicks

      1. Ah. Thanks, I should have spotted that.

  2. It was the logical thing to do. He would not get the track at its best but at least P4 was in reach of what he was doing, maybe better.

    Red Bull’s strategy has been so untouchtable through this season, it finally caught up to them.
    That’s the kind of thing that happens when you overthink the most basic things.

    1. His penultimate lap would have probably been quick enough for pole. The mistake he made wasn’t enough to cost him the time that he had gained on Leclerc through the first 2 sectors.

  3. Calm down dears!
    Just part of the LibFix script.
    Must keep the USA fans on tenterhooks.
    Couldn’t have Max securing the title at Singapore.
    LibFix? Liberty & Netflix. Geddit?!
    p.s. If you believe the fuel blah blah blah? It’s Cool!
    Just get back into the queue for the Tooth Fairie & Father Christmas!!!!

    1. Dear Santa!

      I’m wishing a Charles and Ferrari championship

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