Max Verstappen had to conclude on Saturday after qualifying for the Grand Prix of Austria that Mercedes was in a class of its own. The Red Bull driver qualified third, well behind pole sitter Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

"Mercedes was unfortunately of a different level," said Verstappen in an initial reaction after qualifying. "I'm happy with third place, let's see what we can do tomorrow."

With his time of 1.03.477, Verstappen admitted half a second to Bottas (1.02.939) and Hamilton (1.02.951). The Red Bull Ring is one of the shortest circuits on the calendar, which could make the differences on the other courses even bigger.

Formula 1 has been dominated by Mercedes since 2014. The German team claimed the first two spots in the first five races of the year last season.

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F1 preview: 'Verstappen cannot go to podium if he wins'

Verstappen starts on a different tire than competitors

Verstappen does have the advantage that he can use a different tactic on Sunday than the two Mercedes drivers. The Limburger starts on the medium tire, while all other drivers in the top ten start the race on soft. As a result, Verstappen can normally continue longer until his pit stop.

"I'm the only one on another tire and have nothing to lose tomorrow. I'm just going to make it as difficult as possible for them," said the 22-year-old driver.

In the past two years, Verstappen won the race in Austria, which made him a favorite this year. "Last year I was also not the best in qualifying, but I was in the race. Hopefully tomorrow will be better in the race."

The Grand Prix of Austria starts on Sunday at 3.10 p.m.

See also: Verstappen third in qualifying GP Austria, Bottas takes pole position