Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has joked that Max Verstappen and Red Bull suffered a mechanical failure “on purpose” to make a statement. Verstappen was the favourite to take pole position in Saudi Arabia after topping the timesheets in every free practice session this weekend and Q1.
But the Dutchman was hit with a drive shaft failure in Q2 which brought his session to an early close. After qualifying, Mercedes boss Wolff laughed: “Maybe they’ve done it on purpose to get a win all the way from the back.”
Verstappen’s technical glitch came just moments into his second lap of the session. The reigning champion simply slowed on the exit of turn 10 and cruised his stricken car back to the pits.
His race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Verstappen that the team would do anything it could to fix the issue. Minutes later, Verstappen’s engineers were running around in a desperate attempt to find a solution.
However, the 25-year-old quickly realised his chances of returning to the track were over and he jumped out of the car. In another blow, Verstappen admitted the issue was unknown to Red Bull ahead of qualifying.
He later confirmed the problem was a drive shaft glitch after initially fearing it was an engine problem. Verstappen told Viaplay: “Drive shaft is broken, so that’s it.
“I can’t make anything else out of it. Just accept it and try to make the best of it on Sunday. I went full throttle and suddenly you lose the rear right driveshaft. It would normally have nothing to do with the fact that my gearbox was replaced earlier this weekend.”
Verstappen made an error on his first run in the session which meant he failed to qualify for Q3. The 25-year-old will start the race from P15 while team-mate Sergio Perez took pole.
Horner has confirmed the team would undergo an investigation to ensure the problem doesn’t strike on Sunday. He commented: “(A drive shaft issue) is what it looks like at the moment.
“We have obviously got to get into the car and see exactly what has happened. A great shame because that one lap he did in Q1 would have put him fourth on the grid.”
He added: “There wasn’t a concern coming into the race. Something obviously has happened there and we need to get to the bottom of it and understand it and make sure that it doesn’t happen tomorrow.”