Max Verstappen enjoyed his opening day of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday, with the Dutchman completing the most laps of anyone and setting the best overall time.
Despite difficult track conditions, including a sandstorm striking the Bahraini circuit, the Red Bull Racing driver was able to complete one hundred and thirty-nine laps and set a best time of 1:30.674 to top the timesheets.
Verstappen was ‘very happy’ with his day’s work, although he knows the true pace of the RB16B against his rivals won’t be revealed until the season starts for real with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the end of the month.
“We had a very positive day and managed a lot of laps even though the track conditions were quite difficult,” said the Dutchman. “It was very warm with a lot of wind and we know the degradation is always high around here so I’m very happy with how it went.
“We aimed for this number of laps and when you can complete a full programme like this the Team can also be pleased with the information we have. We don’t need to talk about pace yet and it isn’t really a discussion until we get to Q3 at the first race weekend – it’s only then you see the real pace in all the cars.
“The main thing is that the car felt nice to drive, so it’s a positive start.”
“Lap time is not what it’s about at this stage” – Guillaume Rocquelin
Guillaume Rocquelin, the Head of Race Engineering at Red Bull, was equally pleased with the days work, and to get a good number of laps on the board straight out of the blocks was a good way to begin pre-season testing.
Verstappen will hand the car over to team-mate Sergio Pérez for Saturday’s second day, and Rocquelin is hopeful for another positive day in between the sand dunes in Bahrain.
“Today went well,” said Rocquelin. “The conditions were pretty difficult and very windy, especially in the morning. It calmed down a bit in the afternoon but a lot of dust had been kicked up and it was very hazy and quite difficult to run in.
“In terms of objectives we’re really pleased, as we had a target in terms of the number of laps we wanted to get through and a fairly busy run plan and we were able to stick to both.
“Lap time is not what it’s about at this stage and I don’t think Max will be getting too pumped up about being at the top of the timesheet on day one. What’s more important is that we were able to follow the plan and do the laps.
“For Sergio tomorrow, the conditions should hopefully be a little better. It’s not supposed to be quite as hazy, but the wind is likely to still be quite strong. The plan will be pretty much the same for Checo, so fingers crossed we’re looking forward to another good day.”