Max Verstappen believes Red Bull Racing can be in contention for major honours at the German Grand Prix alongside its Formula 1 rivals Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes AMG Motorsport with some “fine-tuning”.
Verstappen was the lead Red Bull car in both Free Practice sessions at Hockenheim on Friday, as team-mate Pierre Gasly ended his day in the wall at the final corner in a frustrating day for the Austrian team.
Gasly damaged the two corners on the left-hand side of his RB15 after a snap of oversteer going through the medium-speed right-hander of Turn 17.
The Frenchman’s average deficit to Verstappen over the two sessions stood at 0.719 seconds, the Dutchman triumphing by almost a whole second in Free Practice 2.
But Verstappen lagged behind the leading trio of Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon, falling from around three-tenths off the pace to 0.684s behind – he was closer to the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn suffered with tyre temperatures on his qualifying runs.
“Today was okay. We haven’t quite found the perfect balance yet but we are also not too far behind,” said Verstappen.
“In Practice 2 I didn’t have a clean lap on the softest compound as I had to abort and around here it is really a one lap tyre.
“I ended up doing extra laps on the tyre and the peak of the grip was gone.”
Verstappen admitted that Red Bull is behind the front two, but hopes that a few tweaks will bring a positive impact on performance.
Stormy conditions are forecasted through Saturday, which could shake the top order and make for an intense battle for pole position.
“We are a little bit behind Mercedes and Ferrari but with some fine-tuning it will be ok and I think we are better than the times from [the afternoon] show,” Verstappen added.
“It’s always good to get plenty of running on a Friday, even if the conditions are going to change, as you can still get an understanding and find the right direction for the rest of the weekend.”
Gasly meanwhile explained that his lack of pace in Practice 2 was down to a “couple of issues” that prevented him from setting a proper lap time and left him a lowly fifteenth in the standings, behind both Scuderia Toro Rosso cars.
He apologised to his team of mechanics but said that at least his race gearbox and engine was not in the car at the time of his crash.
“It was quite a tricky day today,” said Gasly.
“We managed to get some decent laps during FP1 and the feeling with the car was good.
“We completed the normal tests and then in FP2, we had a couple of issues which meant we didn’t get a short run on soft tyres and that put us back in the classifications, but the feeling was still good.
“Unfortunately, towards the end of the session I lost the car exiting the final corner during a long run and hit the barrier.
“Fortunately I wasn’t using my race engine or gearbox, but more importantly I’m really sorry for the boys in the garage and I want to apologise to them as the repairs will make for a long night.”