Max Verstappen gives verdict on title rival Lewis Hamilton’s grid penalty at Brazil GP

Crucially however, it means Hamilton can’t start Sunday’s Grand Prix any higher than sixth on the grid.

“I mean when they take a new engine, naturally they have a bit more power for a weekend so for me it’s not a big shock,” he said.

“I’m just happy to be second that’s a good position to start from. Of course you always want to be closer but sometimes you have to be realistic.”

Verstappen currently holds a 19-point lead over the British icon in the overall standings, and with the Sprint race worth just three points to the winner, two to the runner-up and one to whoever finishes third, the Dutchman knows it’s Sunday that will define the weekend.

JUST IN: Lewis Hamilton denies he’s ‘rattled’ Red Bull despite beating Max Verstappen in Brazil 

He also believes a change in conditions will mean Red Bull performing differently to how they did on Friday.

“There aren’t that many points to gain in the Sprint race so I hope to have a good first lap and see from there. But the most important one of course in on Sunday,” he continued.

“It will be completely different (Sunday) anyway. It’s going to be a lot warmer and that will change the behaviour of the car as well, so we’ll see.”

Despite his superior pace today, the grid penalty is a huge blow to Hamilton’s hopes of cutting the deficit to Verstappen this weekend.

The seven-time world champion took a 10-place penalty at last month’s Turkish Grand Prix for a fourth engine change, but despite Mercedes thinking they had the problem sorted, noted a drop in water pressure in Hamilton’s engine during the last race in Mexico.

However, the 36-year-old was upbeat when speaking to reporters straight after qualifying, and paid tribute to his idol Ayrton Senna, whose Brazilian colours he has on his helmet.

“Firstly I’m so happy to be back here in Brazil. One of the martials just said to me I should use the Senna colours more often because that’s the first pole I’ve had in a long time.

“Today was a really good qualifying session and I’m so happy with it. We got a penalty after tomorrow but we’ll give it everything we got. I guess Max will start on pole now so it’s going to be very hard to catch him but I’ll do my best to get through the field.”

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