Max Verstappen finished behind both the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers in second practice for the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday, but the Dutchman is confident about the Red Bull Racing’s pace this weekend.
Verstappen started the weekend by setting the pace in the morning session, but he slipped behind both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas when the pace quickened in the afternoon, although he admits he did not get a perfect lap in.
The current championship leader feels this weekend in Austria will be a close one against Mercedes, and he knows Red Bull will have to get everything right to ensure a third consecutive victory.
“From our side we didn’t have a perfect run in FP2 but nevertheless I felt good in the car and there are no real problems,” said Verstappen. “Mercedes looked quite quick on the soft so we just have to make sure we have a little more pace on that compound because we looked stronger on the medium and in the long runs, which at the end of the day is the most important for the race.
“We also tested the new Pirelli prototype tyre which seemed to be fine. It did get quite greasy out there but luckily it was good enough to keep on driving so we had a good read on the long run pace.
“I think it will be tight again this weekend as it looks like Mercedes improved a bit but we will see tomorrow in qualifying and the most important thing is to make sure we look after the softer compounds in the race.”
“I’m not feeling fully comfortable with the car” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez had a much more difficult day, at least on the short runs, with the Mexican ending down in eleventh place in the afternoon after being eighth in the morning.
Pérez believes the longer run pace appears promising, but he knows work needs to be done overnight if he wants to be in contention for the front two rows in Qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
“The long runs were definitely more promising today but there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Pérez. “Both sessions were quite tough and I’m not feeling fully comfortable with the car on the softer compound yet.
“We need to analyse the data tonight to try and get the pace back to where we would expect it to be, ready for qualifying tomorrow. We seemed to be quite far away from the balance with the low fuel but we corrected that quite quickly, we were also seeing less degradation on these tyres too which is good.”
Pérez says it was good to experience Pirelli’s prototype prior to its race debut at the British Grand Prix later this month, but he knows he needs to find more on the regular compounds this weekend if he is to be a genuine contender for the podium places.
“It’s good to see Pirelli bringing a new tyre to test this weekend before we use them at Silverstone,” said the Mexican. “Overall, I learnt a lot from today and it’s great to see all of the fans here at the Red Bull Ring and hopefully we can have a good qualifying tomorrow and a solid race on Sunday.”