Verstappen hoping to hunt down Mercedes


Max Verstappen hopes Friday's practice success can be translated into Sunday race pace after qualifying third for the Malaysia Grand Prix behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton was untouchable on Saturday, qualifying on pole while smashing the lap record at the Sepang International Circuit, but Rosberg could be in Red Bull's sights.

The German was only fifth-fastest after the first runs in the top-10 shootout, but improved on his final flyer to join Hamilton on the front row, albeit four tenths off his team-mate's 1:32.850 benchmark and just one tenth ahead of Verstappen.

Verstappen, who out-qualified team-mate Daniel Ricciardo for just the third time since joining Red Bull, set quicker long-run times than any driver on Friday, and he hopes to enjoy a similar advantage as he aims for a first podium in four races.

"The whole weekend has been quite positive for me," said Verstappen.

"We made some changes after Singapore so I could feel a bit more comfortable in the car. To be that close behind Nico in qualifying is very promising for the race tomorrow.

"Yes, the long run pace looked promising and we also improved on the shorter run performance."

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen fill the third row and the German admitted the result was a disappointment.

"Obviously we expected [to qualify] one row higher up, P3, right behind Mercedes," said Vettel.

"Nevertheless, for tomorrow I think we should have good speed in the race, strategy will be important. Generally we should be quicker, but we weren't today - I hope we can be tomorrow.

"They were just a bit quicker, we expected it to be tight but we felt we had the upper hand. In the end there wasn't much missing but just enough, just over a tenth.

"As a driver you feel it was always somewhere there, so maybe I need to go and have a look later on, and see if I can pick it up."