Formula 1

Verstappen says gap to top two looks ‘closer’ than it is at Suzuka

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Max Verstappen - Formula 1 - 2018 Japanese GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Max Verstappen believes that Aston Martin Red Bull Racing still have plenty of work to do in preparation for qualifying at the Suzuka International Racing Course, and that the times registered in Free Practice are deceiving.

Verstappen managed to clock the fourth fastest time in Free Practice 2 this afternoon, one second shy of pacesetter Lewis Hamilton, but could only muster sixth – three places behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo – in the morning’s session despite maintaining the same gap.

Post-running, Verstappen said that he “wasn’t totally satisfied” with the feeling of his RB14 on both short and long runs and that the gap displayed on the timing sheets is partially flattering to Red Bull. However, the Dutchman is certain that improvements can be found. Verstappen also revealed that he ran a different, lower downforce spec rear wing to Ricciardo.

“We have some work to do ahead of tomorrow as I wasn’t totally satisfied with the feeling in the car today,” he said.

“Both short and long runs didn’t feel ideal, it may look closer on paper but I know we can improve. I was running a different rear wing to Daniel which meant less downforce.”

Verstappen said that the key for Red Bull will be in finding a healthy compromise between straightline speed and grip at the rear of the car, in order to be able to attack the many high-speed corners around the Suzuka circuit with confidence. The Dutchman noted that Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport are “too far ahead” of Red Bull, but thinks that they can get close to Scuderia Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel admitted that the Italian team also have work to do in order to compete.

“If we can find a compromise between straightline speed and rear grip then it will put us in a stronger position for the rest of the weekend,” the 21-year-old added.

“Here in Suzuka you need to be confident in the grip in order to attack the corners. It’s only Friday so we have time to make the changes and find a good balance ahead of qualifying.

“I think we can get close to Ferrari and challenge during the race but Mercedes seem too far ahead at the moment.”

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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