Max Verstappen felt it was a better than expected day at the Sochi Autodrom, with the Dutchman finishing third fastest behind the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport drivers on Friday afternoon.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver had earlier finished second fastest to Sebastian Vettel in the first session of the Russian Grand Prix weekend but ended up behind both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the second, although he was just over four-tenths of a second behind.
Verstappen admitted it was pleasing to be in the mix with Scuderia Ferrari at a venue they were expecting to be behind the Italian marquee, but Saturday’s running will probably be focused on race programmes as both he and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo will both take grid penalties for engine changes.
“It was a good Friday for us,” said Verstappen. “It’s better than expected to be third in FP2. Straight away the car was working well, the long runs were good and we seem to be in good shape.
“Overall, the performance of the car is pleasing, we just need to understand the tyres better and work out the plan for the race. The information we received today was very good and we have the evening ahead to analyse everything.
“It was good to be in the mix with Ferrari and so far we can’t really complain. I don’t know what the strategy for qualifying tomorrow will be, but we probably won’t do the full session. I also expect Ferrari to find something overnight, so it’s going to be close tomorrow.”
Verstappen feels it was best to get the penalty out of the way in Russia that Red Bull feel is not going to be as strong as others still to come but come race day it will be exciting to see how far he can get back through the field on Sunday.
“Taking the penalties here is not so bad because it’s not our strongest track, so it’s best to get it out of the way,” said the Dutchman. “Starting from the back of the grid should be fun.
“I mean, moving forward and passing people is never easy, but we’ll see how far we can get.”