Max Verstappen believes Red Bull is in a promising position to challenge polesitter Sebastian Vettel for victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, after securing second and third on the grid.
The Dutchman followed up on an encouraging Friday -- as Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo topped both practice sessions -- to lead the way in final practice before posting the fastest time in the first two segments of qualifying.
However, it was Vettel who stole the show in Q3 with two blistering laps as he denied Verstappen his first pole position in Formula One by 0.3s. In doing so, Vettel also defended his own record of being the youngest-ever polesitter in the sport, with Verstappen, who turns 20 at the Malaysian Grand Prix, aiming to become the first teenager to start a grand prix from the very front of the grid.
"I think I did just not as much Sebastian," Verstappen admitted. "I think all in all the whole weekend was good progression, getting better and better. Qualifying also is just constant improvement, even though the whole weekend we were a bit down on power, I don't know why we couldn't really solve it.
"We lost a bit of top speed there so that's not ideal but at the end of the day to be second here on this track is very promising and we are not too far off. So I can be quite happy with this qualifying."
A recurring theme of qualifying in 2017 has been Mercedes' and Ferrari's ability to unleash greater performance from their power units in Q3, while Red Bull has often fallen back down the order in the final part of qualifying.
When asked how much extra power Red Bull was able to extract in Singapore, Verstappen replied: "Maybe not as much! A little bit, fine-tuning, but we still have to work hard to improve. We are still not where Ferrari or Mercedes is."
Vettel heads into Sunday's race looking to restore the championship lead he lost in Monza, with closest title rival Lewis Hamilton starting from fifth as Mercedes struggled around the tight and twisty Marina Bay Street Circuit. Verstappen insists he will not change his approach to fighting Vettel for the win just because the German is battling for the title.
"You always go for it if there is a gap and if it's possible, but if not then you just settle down and get into the race. Like Sebastian said, it's a very long race so a lot of things can happen."