Toto Wolff makes surprising claim about Max Verstappen issue

Max Verstappen will have to fight from P15 if he wants to claim back-to-back wins in Saudi Arabia, following a driveshaft failure in qualifying.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff jokingly accused Red Bull of making Max Verstappen suffer a driveshaft failure during qualifying “on purpose”, in a bid to show that the RB19 has the pace to win “from the back”.

Verstappen has once again been completely dominant at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman having topped all three practice sessions at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

As a result, he was the clear favourite for pole position on Saturday, until a sudden driveshaft failure saw the Dutchman eliminated in Q2.

The reigning world champion was unable to complete a lap in Q2, meaning he’ll start Sunday’s race from P15.

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Despite his poor starting position, Verstappen is still very much a contender for victory, given how strong he was throughout free practice.

“Maybe they’ve done it on purpose to get a win all the way from the back,” Wolff joked after qualifying.

Verstappen revealed after his shock elimination how he came to realise that something wasn’t right, with the Dutchman having been on a hot lap when the issue struck.

“Drive shaft is broken, so that’s it,” Verstappen told Viaplay.

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“I can’t make anything else out of it. Just accept it and try to make the best of it on Sunday. I went full throttle and suddenly you lose the rear right driveshaft. It would normally have nothing to do with the fact that my gearbox was replaced earlier this weekend.”

To highlight how quick Verstappen has been this weekend in Jeddah, the Dutchman’s Q1 lap would’ve been good enough for fourth on the grid.

The failure is certainly not ideal, especially with Red Bull having already fitted Verstappen with a new gearbox for this weekend.

Team principal Christian Horner revealed that Verstappen’s issue “wasn’t a concern” ahead of the weekend, with the Austrians needing to understand what caused the failure.

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“(A drive shaft issue) is what it looks like at the moment,” Horner said after qualifying.

“We have obviously got to get into the car and see exactly what has happened. A great shame because that one lap he did in Q1 would have put him fourth on the grid.

“There wasn’t a concern coming into the race. Something obviously has happened there and we need to get to the bottom of it and understand it and make sure that it doesn’t happen tomorrow.”