An engine problem in Q3 prevented Verstappen from setting a fast lap time, forcing him to be on the fifth row for the start of Sunday’s race at the Hungaroring.
But Charles Leclerc, the title’s main rival, was unable to take full advantage and only finished third in qualifying as George Russell scored a shocking first pole for Mercedes.
When asked if it was a nice surprise to see Russell on pole, Verstappen replied: “Well, they should do me a favor tomorrow! That’s more important.”
“I was surprised to see it,” he added. “They were close, but I didn’t expect them to make that leap in Q3. It’s fun for me too.”
Russell will be joined on the front row of the grid by Leclerc’s team-mate, Carlos Sainz, but the Ferrari drivers have already downplayed the ability to use team orders to aid Leclerc’s title hopes.
Verstappen had set the fastest time in Q2 before the engine problem resulted in a “painful” final session, and the Dutchman was “surprised” by his pace prior to the problem.
“All the boys and girls here and also back at the factory did a lot of analysis last night because we weren’t happy at all [after practice]’ said Verstappen.
“We made some really positive changes, the car was much better to drive for me. We looked very competitive, even in Q2, all laps, even on a used set of tires, we were always there, very fast.
“I was looking forward to Q3, but of course the first lap didn’t go according to plan. Then I knew the car’s pace is there. Unfortunately we couldn’t show it.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13
Photo By: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
The Hungaroring is notoriously difficult to overtake, causing Verstappen to brace for a tough race on Sunday as he tries to find his way back.
“It will be a bit difficult for me, but anything is possible,” said Verstappen.
“I think a lot of Sundays have already shown that this year, but around here it’s hard to pass.
“We will remain patient and see what happens.”
Verstappen’s 63-point buffer means he will still go into the summer break with a healthy lead regardless of Sunday’s result, but said he wasn’t thinking about the advantage of his points lead.
“I don’t even think too much about the points, I’m just disappointed that these things are happening,” said Verstappen.
“There are always weekends where you’re not the fastest or whatever, it’s natural or normal.
“But we actually had a really fast car today, then you have to maximize it and be above that, even if it’s one, two, three, not P10.”