A fuel pressure issue ended Max Verstappen’s day early at the Sochi Autodrom, but the Dutchman already feels that fifth and sixth is the best result Red Bull Racing can achieve in normal circumstances this weekend.
Verstappen ended both free practice sessions in Russia more than one second off the pace, finishing fourth in FP1 1.100 seconds down on Kimi Raikkonen, while he was 1.420 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel in FP2 after stopping just before pit entry after just fifteen laps.
“We ended up stopping sooner than planned due to a problem with the fuel pressure,” said Verstappen. “It was a bit of a shame as it prevented us doing a long run but luckily Daniel [Ricciardo] did one so we at least have some data to look into for Sunday.”
The nineteen-year-old feels Red Bull’s pace deficit to both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Scuderia Ferrari is accentuated thanks to the long straight in Russia, while the downforce deficits are also costing them time through the corners.
“This track is not one of our favourites, we knew coming here it was going to be a tough weekend so we will just try to make the best of it,” said Verstappen. “The gap to Mercedes and Ferrari looks bigger here because of the long straight; and we are down on power and downforce which makes not only the straights but also the corners tricky.
“I think qualifying will be interesting due to the challenge of warming the tyres up, and it’s the same for everyone so putting in one perfect lap won’t be easy. Realistically fifth and sixth is our aim for Sunday.”