Max Verstappen admits Portimao’s low grip conditions were “not enjoyable” to drive, after qualifying third for Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s first lap in Q3 was good enough to put him top of the timesheets, but a snap of oversteer at Turn 4 meant he exceeded track limits, resulting in his time being deleted.

It meant the Red Bull driver had only one run to try and claim his second pole position of 2021, but a scruffy second lap saw him three-tenths shy from his original effort, leaving him third behind both Mercedes.

Verstappen vented his frustration over team radio at losing a clear opportunity to secure his fifth career pole, rueing his struggle to find a balance amid the lack of grip from the circuit.

“I didn’t enjoy one single lap this weekend, just because of the state of the track,” Verstappen said, as quoted by

“The layout is amazing, but the grip we are experiencing, I don’t think it’s nice. I know it’s the same for everyone, but for me personally, it’s not enjoyable to drive.

“I started off in qualifying really slow, I had no balance in the car. We slowly got to a point where I was happier, but I was basically compromising one thing, and then losing a bit of performance in the other thing. It was just not nice.

“Then I had my little moment in Turn 4 in the first run in Q3. At the end, showed that was the fastest lap.

“It just showed that it was a really difficult session to get any kind of grip in it, because that corner is flat and suddenly out of the blue, the car just snapped on me and I ran a bit wide.”

Verstappen said he’d felt confident he could match or better his deleted Q3 laptime, but lost time in the final sector after coming across Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin.

“I thought I can do that lap again, so I go out, I was within a tenth of the lap,” Verstappen explained.

“Then in the last sector, I lost all my laptime with an Aston Martin in front, and then taking my tow on the line as well.

“So yeah, messy, but it is what it is.”

Verstappen could leave Portugal leading the drivers’ championship for the first time in his Formula 1 career, as he lies just a point behind current leader Lewis Hamilton.

Analysing Red Bull’s chance of challenging for victory, Verstappen said: “We’ll see tomorrow what we can do. It’s not so easy to follow here, but if we have good pace, then for sure we’ll put the pressure on.”