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Toto Wolff feels Max Verstappen is more than capable of winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from 15th on the grid, using Lewis Hamilton’s past achievements as an example. Red Bull are the team to beat this year and Verstappen came into this weekend in unstoppable form.
He topped the timesheet in all three practice sessions and looked strong favourite to take pole. But the Dutchman suffered a loss of drive on his first lap in Q2, forcing him to retire from the session.
After being unable to put in a lap time, Verstappen ended up qualifying 15th to add an extra spice to Sunday’s race. Sergio Perez had no such issue as he put his Red Bull on pole ahead of Charles Leclerc, although the Ferrari driver has been handed a 10-place grid penalty for engine usage.
The Mexican will fancy his chances at taking the chequered flag with Verstappen starting way back on the grid. But Red Bull’s dominance over the other teams to start the new season means Wolff isn’t ruling out Verstappen coming through the field and winning the race.
And the Mercedes team principal pointed to Hamilton’s own record of cutting through the pack to win in spectacular fashion. “No, I wouldn’t be surprised if Verstappen wins,” Wolff said.
“He has so much pace! He has so much pace that he has a second left compared to the rest. How many laps do we do on Sunday? Fifty? So that’s fifty seconds, so then it’s definitely possible.
“We’ve seen Lewis do that in the past.” Verstappen himself wasn’t too downbeat about the issue that stopped his qualifying session short.
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“Now it’s a little bit more tricky to get to the front,” he said. “But it’s all about scoring points, it’s a very long season.
“Of course, I would have hoped to start a bit further up the road but we cannot change that now. Anything is possible at this track. We’ve seen a lot of crazy things, but we also need to stay a little bit realistic.
“I mean, it’s going to be tough. But we have good pace so, for sure, we’ll move forward.”
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