Max Verstappen believes Red Bull has made improvements with their pace over a single lap, after topping Friday’s FP2 session for the Styrian Grand Prix.
The Milton Keynes-based team has been bullish about their pace since the end of pre-season testing and so far, they appear to be Mercedes’ closest challengers.
Race pace has been Red Bull’s strongest point throughout the last few years, with their Honda and Renault power units unable to compete with the outright pace of the Silver Arrows, but Verstappen believes his team has made improvements, after he topped the second practice session on Friday.
Verstappen’s time of 1m03.660s was quick enough to fend off championship leader Valtteri Bottas by 0.043s, and the Dutch driver said after practice that he “can’t complain” about his RB16’s one lap pace.
“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer to drive and we have made a good step.” commented Verstappen.
“It is only Friday Practice and of course it is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but from our side I think we are quite happy.
“We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and I think we are heading the right way which I’m pleased about.
“We have to see what will happen tomorrow with the weather but otherwise we will find out where we really are on Sunday.
“Normally our race pace is more competitive but already over one lap we can’t complain and actually the 11 laps I did in last week’s race didn’t look too bad, so it can only get better.
“Even if tomorrow the weather is too bad for qualifying I expect we will still have Sunday morning to do it, so I don’t expect to be on pole position with this lap.”
Verstappen’s team-mate, Alex Albon added that Red Bull had been experimenting with different setups on Friday and that it didn’t quite work out for him, but he is hoping he can learn from Verstappen’s data and take a step forward on Saturday.
“We’ve been getting a bit creative and trying some different things compared to last week’s running here, some of the changes worked and some didn’t, so it’s a bit of a mixed day.” said Albon.
“Late in the session I pushed a bit too much on the exit of the corner, nothing serious, and lost the rear.
“Max obviously had a good session and is comfortable with the car so hopefully we can learn a little bit from his side of the garage and take a step forward.”