MANAMA (Reuters) - Max Verstappen blamed a sudden and unexpected spike in engine power for sending him spinning into the barriers in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying.
The 20-year-old Red Bull driver had been struggling in practice at the Sakhir circuit, reporting that the Renault engine was not delivering the punch it should when set to higher power modes.
In Saturday’s qualifying, however, it delivered an extra 150 horsepower just as Verstappen exited the second corner, causing his car’s rear wheels to break traction with the track and pitch him off.
“I studied the data immediately when I came out of the car because for me it was also a big surprise,” Verstappen told reporters.
“I think it’s never happened to me before in my career, something like that. Somehow from one to the other lap I got like 150 horsepower extra on the rear tyres. It overslipped the rear tyres and made me spin.”
Verstappen will line up 15th as a result.
Team mate Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile qualified fifth, four-tenths of a second off Ferrari pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel’s benchmark.
With the Red Bull enjoying better race pace than qualifying speed, Verstappen was optimistic he could make up ground on Sunday.
“With a bit of luck, maybe the safety car, I can hopefully maybe fight in front again,” he said. “Like Austin last year.”
Verstappen started last October’s U.S. Grand Prix in 16th place but finished third, before being stripped of his podium finish for exceeding track limits in his pass of Kimi Raikkonen.
“I finished on the podium. Of course it got taken away, but...we have a good chance.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin