Max Verstappen said he was feeling good behind the wheel of his RB15 prior to his crash during free practice two on Friday afternoon at the Red Bull Ring, and he says he would have been closer to the top of the time sheets had his best lap being traffic free.
The Red Bull Racing driver, the winner of the Austrian Grand Prix twelve months ago, was fifth fastest in the morning session but was only eighth in the afternoon as his running was restricted to just thirteen laps due to his red flag-inducing crash.
On the back of the times set on Friday, Verstappen does not know where Red Bull are in comparison to their rivals this weekend, particularly against Mercedes AMG Motorsport, who did not do as many performance runs as they would normally do.
“My feeling in the car was good and we looked quite competitive,” said Verstappen. “Of course, you always want to do better but my laps were looking quite good before the crash.
“I had traffic on my fastest lap so we would be a lot closer than my lap time shows. The car was working well, we still need to find a bit of a compromise between the corners and the straightline speed but we will look at that tonight.
“It’s hard to say where we are in terms of overall performance as Mercedes didn’t do their performance laps, so I am of course a bit cautious, but from my feeling the whole car was working well today which is a positive.”
Verstappen said the gusting wind caught him out during second practice that resulted in him hitting the barriers hard at the final turn, and he knows he has given his team a lot of work to do overnight to repair his RB15 ahead of final practice on Saturday morning.
“It was very gusty and the wind wasn’t consistent which caught me out in the middle of the last corner,” said the Dutchman. “I lost the rear and hit the barrier pretty hard.
“Luckily, everything is fixable and it’s Friday so we’re not running all the race material yet. It’s just a shame for the Team as they have a lot on tonight now.”
Team-mate Pierre Gasly had a better day in the second RB15, finishing just behind Verstappen in sixth in the morning session before improving to third in the afternoon. He felt more comfortable in the car than he did last weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard, and despite the tricky conditions he was able to complete his programme and be relatively competitive throughout the day.
“From this morning in FP1, I felt good with the car and I was able to push, so today was positive,” said Gasly. “I felt a lot more comfortable than in France and I think we have a good direction.
“There was quite a lot happening in FP2 but we still managed to complete all the tests we wanted to. The conditions are really hot and it’s quite windy which makes things tricky, and I think the rising temperatures are the main thing we need to keep on top of looking ahead to Sunday.
“The kerbs are also proving quite expensive as they’re breaking a lot of the cars!”
Gasly says that whilst the result of the session was positive, the gap to Scuderia Ferrari at the front of the field was not as good, so work will need to be done in order to close that gap ahead of final practice and Qualifying.
“We look quite good on the timesheet with third, but we’re still four tenths off Ferrari so we need to stay focused and try to find some more pace from our package for tomorrow,” said the Frenchman.
“Looking at our long runs, they were a bit messy and not that clean, so we will look at that a bit more closely and decide what is the best strategy for Sunday.”