Max Verstappen feels there is a possibility that Qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix could be ‘quite dangerous’, particularly around the blind corners of the middle section of the lap if you are on a ‘cool down lap’.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver says the need to cool down tyres after completing a flying lap could see slower cars impeding others, and this could be dangerous with twenty cars running around one of the shortest tracks ever to host a race.
Verstappen ended second fastest in both sessions on Friday as he adjusted to the shorter outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit, and he feels his performance over the longer runs felt better than the short runs.
“It was tricky out there and balance wise we haven’t quite found the optimum set-up, especially on the short runs,” said Verstappen. “The long runs were definitely an improvement and looked quite good this evening but even there we can do better.
“The track is not the most exciting to drive and because it is such a short lap the radio is constantly open with traffic warnings about other cars. The second sector it is quite blind for a lot of corners and it isn’t going to be easy when we need to cool the tyres before doing a second push lap and I think it could actually be quite dangerous.”
Verstappen says is still work to do before Qualifying if they are to be in contention for pole position against the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, but their main focus will be ensuring they have a good enough set-up for race day.
“We never know exactly where we are on a Friday but Valtteri’s lap was cancelled so it looks like we are a couple of tenths off Mercedes,” said the Dutchman. “We have a bit of work to do before qualifying and then we will focus on the race pace to ensure we are competitive as following closely behind other cars will be a challenge around here.”
“Finding a gap in qualifying tomorrow isn’t going to be easy” – Alexander Albon
Team-mate Alexander Albon says he was enjoying the new track layout on Friday, and he says some parts are ‘quite challenging’ and took some time to get used to.
The Thai driver, who finished on the podium in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix on the traditional layout of the track, finished third fastest in the first session on Friday and fifth in the second, and he feels the pace of his RB16 was ‘pretty good’ throughout the day.
He had a wild spin at turn two in the morning but otherwise had a good day in the desert, and he knows finding a big enough gap in Qualifying to be able to set a competitive lap time will be key.
“I’m enjoying this new track as it’s very unique and some parts are quite challenging which makes it fun to get on top of,” said Albon. “It was interesting out there today and there will be a lot to look at tonight in terms of what went well and what didn’t.
“It felt as though we had more grip in the first session than compared with FP2 so we’ll also have to look at that but overall the race pace looked pretty good which is positive but it’s still early days.
“Finding a gap in qualifying tomorrow isn’t going to be easy and because you have to drive so slowly to cool these tyres down the closing speeds are huge, so we’ll have to be on our toes and I expect our engineers are going to be busy.
“As drivers we all have respect for each other in terms of getting out of the way but at the same time we all want our tyres to be in the best possible window for our own laps so I’m sure it will be a talking point in the drivers briefing later this evening.”