Having been the only non-Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car to finish in the top two in either of Friday’s Free Practice sessions in Melbourne, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen has told of his delight over his early pace.
Verstappen did not fall outside of the top three all day, ending up one-tenth shy of pacesetter Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon session; improving on his morning time by seven-tenths of a second.
The Dutchman suffered a better day than his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who could not get the softer compound of tyres to work as he desired. Additionally, the Australian faces a three-place grid penalty for an infringement under red flag conditions.
“For me this has been a positive start to the weekend,” beamed Verstappen. “So I am really happy about that.”
Verstappen did say that it’s still too early to see who has the fastest package, expecting the order to settle by the time Formula 1 returns to Europe for the Azeri Grand Prix at the end of next month.
“The car has behaved well on this track which is always pleasing after only running in Barcelona to date.
“Of course we have only done two practice sessions so it is still hard to see who is strongest and how we will finish come race day. It is a bit of a guess when you come to the first circuit of the season.
“It takes at least two or three Grand Prix to understand what is going on, it then also depends on everyone’s development rate throughout the year.”
In recent seasons, Red Bull have struggled to start the season strongly, often entering the picture for race wins towards the end of the year. But whilst Verstappen admits that current champions Mercedes are showing signs of overpowering strength, the 20-year-old is “not concerned” for the time being.
Additionally, he is buoyed by the threat of rain on both Saturday and Sunday, as Renault Sport are still reportedly lagging behind on engine development in comparison to the rivalling Ferrari and Mercedes.
“Race pace looks good, I think there is definitely some room for improvement and Mercedes look pretty strong, but I’m not concerned with how it looks at the moment,” he said.
“A little bit of rain over the rest of the weekend would help us out. Being wet means performance is less engine dependent and makes the power tricky to control. Our car is usually strong in the wet and I enjoy myself so fingers crossed we get some rain.”