Max Verstappen felt degradation was so extreme for he and Red Bull that no tyre compound would have given him the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint win.
Verstappen went into the final sprint of the 2022 season optimistic as he lined up P2 behind Kevin Magnussen, who had claimed a shock first pole position for himself and Haas.
As Verstappen had predicted, Magnussen was no match for him in a Haas not working as well in the dry conditions, and Verstappen was followed through by George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton who all overtook him later in the race.
Russell took the chequered flag for the first time in Formula 1, with Verstappen set to start P3 for the grand prix as Sainz takes a five-place engine-related grid drop.
Verstappen went against the grain by taking medium tyres for the sprint, but even if he’d had the soft rubber fitted Verstappen believes that still would not have changed his fate.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 how it had felt starting on the medium tyres, Verstappen replied: “At the start it felt all right but somehow it didn’t work – but I think even on softs I would have been too slow.
“So we are clearly just having way too much degradation here. We’ll analyse it – I’m not sure we can do a lot for tomorrow, but it can’t be worse than today’s.”
As for whether the hard tyres could be an option for Verstappen on Sunday, he returned to the point that when the degradation was so extreme, the compound does not really matter.
“We’ll look at it tonight,” said Verstappen to the suggestion the hard tyres may be an option. “At the end of the day, when you have so much more degradation than another team, it doesn’t matter what tyres you put on.
“So I think we need to just try and improve that first and normally every tyre should work.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained the thinking was that if Verstappen had got through the first half of the race unscathed, the medium tyres would start to work in his favour from there.
However, that tyre ended up degrading faster than the soft rubber.
“We felt the soft was a bit limited in range,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “So we thought if we start on the mediums, if he survived the first 12 laps the second half of the race would become a little more comfortable.
“And having survived the first half of the race, we ended up actually in worse degradation than the soft, so Mercedes had a very quick car today and we just couldn’t hold them off.”
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