Max Verstappen is ready to experience a different circuit this weekend as Formula 1 arrives at the Hungaroring in Hungary after two consecutive weekend’s racing around the Red Bull Ring.
Last weekend saw the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver score his first points and podium of 2020 in the Styrian Grand Prix after being forced out of the Austrian Grand Prix seven days previously with a mechanical problem, but the Dutchman was unable to match the kind of pace the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team were able to manage.
Verstappen says finishing on the podium was pleasing but this weekend’s Hungarian race will offer a much different challenge, with the required downforce levels at the Hungaroring much higher than they were in Austria.
“I think two weeks driving on the same track is enough but Red Bull did make a great event for us,” said Verstappen. “It was nice to have the opportunity to drive at the same track twice and be able to test different set-ups on the cars and correlate the data from back to back races, but I think we are all ready for a new track now.
“After such a tough first weekend it was good to be on the podium on Sunday and it was nice to have some sort of reward for the Team. Now I’m just looking ahead to this weekend as Hungary is a really fun track to drive with these high downforce cars so let’s see what we can do.”
Verstappen is hopeful that Red Bull can take the fight to Mercedes in Hungary, but the most important thing for him is to get into a good rhythm, particularly in the technical middle section of the track, where one mistake can cost a driver a lot of time.
“I will of course try to do the best that I can and see how competitive we are again against Mercedes, and of course the others,” said the Dutchman. “The track is more technical than Austria.
“There are more corners and if you get one corner wrong, you are not well positioned for the next one, especially in sector two. So, you really have to work hard on the car set-up, that is always key. We need a really stable balance, but of course a car that responds well going into corners.”
One of the positives for Verstappen and Red Bull has been the speed of their pit stops, with his best stop last weekend being completed in under two seconds, and he feels this proves that all the hard work is paying off for the mechanics.
“It’s always nice when the guys can give me such a fast pit stop,” Verstappen added. “I mean I like to see the guys during the race but of course I want to get away from them as fast as possible in the pit stop!
“They all work super hard and I think that shows every Sunday.”
“It’s a drivers’ circuit so we all enjoy coming here” – Alexander Albon
Team-mate Alexander Albon finished fourth last weekend for his first points of the year, although the Anglo-Thai racer felt his performance in the first race of the year was much better than the second event at the Red Bull Ring.
Albon was challenging Lewis Hamilton for second place and on fresher tyres during the Austrian Grand Prix, only to be tipped into a spin by the reigning World Champion, but his performance during the Styrian Grand Prix was not as strong and he was forced to fight off the challenge of BWT Racing Point Formula One Team’s Sergio Pérez for fourth as Verstappen fought for the podium.
“Hungary is a nice track. It’s a drivers’ circuit so we all enjoy coming here,” said Albon. “This weekend the focus is a bit more on qualifying as it isn’t as easy to overtake here as it is at the Red Bull Ring.
“We learned a few lessons between races one and two, we understand the car a lot better now and we’re using that to push forward.
“I’d say race one was a bit better than race two. We optimised the package better in race one, but we had a better car in race two, so it’s more or less about working on that car from race two and getting it into a good window.
“I had to manage the early race pace on the soft tyre last weekend due to concerns over blistering but on the medium the balance was much better.”
Albon says the Hungaroring this weekend should suit Red Bull better than the Red Bull Ring did across the past two weekends, and he hopes this enables them to close the gap on the Mercedes team at the front of the field who have been the standout competitors so far in 2020.
“There’s obviously a gap to Mercedes but we’re probably going to a circuit that suits us more than the Red Bull Ring so with that in mind we’re pretty hopeful,” he said. “The main thing is to close the gap to Mercedes.
“We will have to wait and see where we are in FP1 but I think the pecking order in the championship is maybe a bit different to what was expected and the Racing Point is probably up there. We’ve got to see what we can do.
“As always, the goal is to focus on ourselves and the end product is the result of that hard work. It’s all about optimising what we’ve got and seeing how that compares to the rest of the field.”