Mick Schumacher says driving around the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve is difficult in a car that is difficult to drive, but he feels his Uralkali Haas F1 Team are making progress with the driveability of its VF-21.
Schumacher finished eighteenth fastest in both Friday practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, and he said the Portimão track reminded him of racing in Formula 3 and go-karts.
It was not long before he was finding confidence to attack on Friday, and he admits he is continuing to acclimatise himself to the ‘lively VF-21.
“It was definitely a lot more slippery than I’m used to, but it was fun,” said Schumacher. “We had a very lively car out there, it brought back memories from F3 and go-karting. It was interesting.
“The track is quite impressive and quite intense. It wasn’t difficult to build confidence here, it’s just about getting a clean lap and that’s very difficult if the car is difficult to drive. I think we’re getting into a window where it’s more and more resilient.
“I’m also getting more comfortable with a lively car. If we do our jobs, which we always do, we should be in a good window tomorrow for qualifying.”
“There’s a lot still to be extracted and it’s tomorrow that matters” – Nikita Mazepin
Team-mate Nikita Mazepin’s early season struggles continued as he was unable to match Schumacher in either session, with the Russian finishing twentieth and last in both.
He experienced a few off-track moments but generally kept his nose clean, but the pace compared to Schumacher was not strong, with Mazepin ending 2.285 seconds adrift of the German in the first session and 1.101 seconds back in the afternoon.
Mazepin feels there is still a lot to come from both himself and the VF-21 this weekend, and despite finishing at the back on Friday, he says Saturday is where he needs to get it right and perform.
“On average, if you take all the circuits that we go to in F1 and F2, this is one of the least grippy tracks – which is a bit of a shame as the layout is really cool,” said Mazepin. “If you could go a bit faster, and with a bit more confidence through it, it would be nice.
“We have what we have. The grip is building up with all the laps we’re doing so that’s good. There are fine lines here and, in that respect, I think we had a good Friday. There’s a lot still to be extracted and it’s tomorrow that matters.”