It was a tale of two fortunes for the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team as Max Verstappen finished third in the first practice, before splitting the two Scuderia Ferrari cars in second practice to finish just behind Sebastian Vettel.
While the first session only saw seventeen laps from the Dutchman, confidence was high after finishing third fastest behind Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. The second practice saw further improvement as the two-time Mexican Grand Prix winner moved up one place to finish just behind Vettel.
“Today was a pretty positive day. We tested quite a few bits on the car, improved throughout the day and in the end, I was quite pleased with the balance,” said Verstappen.
“There are of course things still to be improved but you can’t complain when you are purple in sectors two and three.”
Despite the promising pace from the Red Bull RB15, Verstappen remains grounded and is unsure if the team can challenge for the top spot in qualifying.
“I don’t think we can realistically fight Ferrari for pole as they are just too quick on the straights and there are not enough corners to make up the difference but we seem to be in the same speed range on the long runs.
“Now we just have to focus on the race where our pace looks more competitive and if we can keep our tyres under control then I think it will be a close race.”
Teammate Alexander Albon had a promising first session as he made his debut on the circuit, finishing in fourth place.
“This is my first time driving at this circuit and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s a good track and the stadium section is cool, but obviously today has not been the best day. Free Practice 1 was ok,” explained Albon.
Unfortunately, the second session wasn’t as positive as the British-Thai driver made a small mistake as he run over the kerbs and lost control of the car, ending his session in the barriers with broken suspension on the right side of his car.
“The car felt good straight away and I was happy with the balance, but in Free Practice 2 I just went a bit wide on the kerbs and lost the rear. Once these cars snap, they snap quickly and that was that.
“It was a silly mistake and I paid the price. We missed a good chunk of running so we’ll need to make that back up tomorrow but we’ll be ready for Free Practice 3 and that’s the main thing.“
Despite losing track time in the second session, Albon remains upbeat having seen what his teammate managed to achieve in the second session.
“Max showed the car is quick in the long runs and now it’s just about fine-tuning for qualifying where we expect the Ferraris to be very strong.
“Free Practice 3 will be about rebuilding confidence and getting back into a rhythm but the conditions might be different with rain which could make things interesting,” he concluded.