Red Bull Racing backed-up their calls of ending Mercedes AMG Petronas seven-year dominance after topping both Friday practice sessions.
All eyes were on Red Bull after encouraging pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit two weeks ago, with Max Verstappen going fastest overall, and the first two practice sessions of the 2021 season suggest that testing wasn’t a one-off.
Verstappen, who will be looking to win his first-ever FIA Formula One World Championship, topped both timesheets. The Dutchman recorded a lap time of 1:31.394 in the morning, going two-tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas before he went even quicker in the afternoon session.
The Red Bull driver went four-tenths quicker in the afternoon with a lap time of 1:30.847, only nine-hundredths quicker than McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen called it an all-round positive day but doesn’t want to get his hopes up before tomorrow qualifying session.
“It’s been a good day again and with the heat and the wind it is not easy to find a perfect balance around the whole lap but overall, I would say it was a positive day. There are still things to improve and look into for tomorrow, tyre wise and a bit of balance tuning, plus I think it will be even more windy which is a challenge for everyone in these cars.” Verstappen said.
“I am pretty happy with the start of the weekend but tomorrow is a different day and we have to see whether we can do it in qualifying when it counts.”
Perez – “I’ve got some work to do on the short runs”
Verstappen will line-up with a brand-new team-mate for the 2021 season, with Sergio Perez replacing Alex Albon. The Mexican joins Red Bull with heaps of experience and quality in the hope he can push the team even closer to Mercedes.
Perez’s afternoon wasn’t as promising as Verstappen, going sixth fastest in the first practice session with a lap time of 1:32.071, nearly sixth-tenth behind the Dutchman. The afternoon session wasn’t much better for the Mexican, going tenth quickest with a lap time of 1:31.503.
The 31-year-old was pleased to get into a race weekend as a Red Bull driver but acknowledges he still has work to do on the short runs ahead of qualifying tomorrow.
“It feels great to finally get into a race weekend and I’m pleased so far with how things are going. I’m settling in well and taking some step forwards.” Perez said.
“If I were to summarize today, I’ve got some work to do on the short runs as over one lap I don’t quite feel the car within me just yet and I still have to think about what the car is doing, but in the long runs I’m more comfortable and I think the pace is there so that’s positive.
“I think we have some work to do on the soft tyre as there is also room for improvement there, but the car is performing well, we have good pace and tomorrow it will be pretty close in qualifying so we need to make sure we get it right and have a good start to the season.”