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Engine issue leaves Verstappen at the back, praying for rain in China

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Max Verstappen was left frustrated after a shock exit in the first stage of Formula 1 qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix due to an engine issue that left him down on power.

Verstappen was a surprise drop-out in Q1 as he finished a lowly 19th, having endured a difficult session that was made shorter when he was called to the weighbridge early on.

A power issue soon arose on his Renault engine, forcing the Red Bull driver to pit before heading back out and trying to resolve the issue by changing engine modes regularly on his flying laps.

Despite his best efforts, Verstappen failed to make it through, qualifying 19th overall and matching the slow-going McLaren’s for straight-line speed due to the engine issue.

“There was something misfiring in the engine which meant we were down on power, I tried to do a lap that could at least get me through to Q2 but the issue just wouldn’t let me,” Verstappen explained.

“The guys will investigate this evening and I’m confident they can resolve it for the race. It is of course very unfortunate but these things happen and we need to move on.”

Rain is forecast for Sunday’s race in China, with Verstappen welcoming a wet race as he bids to charge back up the field.

“A bit of rain tomorrow will definitely help us but I think even in the wet it will be tough to challenge Ferrari and Mercedes,” Verstappen said.

“We need to concentrate on what we have and do the best we can. I will go home tonight, get some good rest and sleep, then come to the track ready to attack on what will hopefully be a wet track.

“If it is dry tomorrow you lose too much time starting from where I am on the grid. We will see, some good overtakes and exciting racing is what I’m hoping for.”

One positive for Verstappen is that he will rise two places on the grid to 17th after Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer were both hit with grid penalties, causing them to fall to the last row.

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 1am ET on Sunday.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.