Max Verstappen says Red Bull is closer than it expected to the front of the field at the Brazilian Grand Prix despite hitting trouble during FP2.
On Thursday, Verstappen wrote off Red Bull’s chances of victory as he expected the power deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari to be too great, especially through the uphill final sector. However, the performance looked encouraging after Verstappen topped the times in FP1, and despite an oil leak in the afternoon session the Dutchman admits the outlook is better than predicted.
“It’s a bit of a shame that we missed a little bit of running initially and then everything is a little bit rushed,” Verstappen said. “Then you are out of sync — everybody’s doing long runs, you are on a short run, you have traffic and stuff like that. So I think the result in the second practice is not the real picture. I think we could have been a lot closer to them if I didn’t have traffic in the last two sectors.
“But after that on the long run it was quite OK. We have some things to improve but I am quite confident that we can improve them anyway, so we will see.
“In qualifying I don’t think we have a chance, but after that I think the race pace was OK, so it’s definitely looking more positive than last year.
“The car’s working well, so that’s really important. I’m happy with the long runs as well … We are closer than expected, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to secure a front row. That’s really important around here, but we’ll definitely try to score a podium.”
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo will take a five-place grid penalty for needing a new turbo this weekend after his retirement in Mexico, but the Australian is similarly upbeat over Red Bull’s chances.
“I got a phone call last week notifying me of what happened when we broke down in Mexico,” Ricciardo said. “I think the marshals put the extinguisher straight up the exhaust and went to town on it and damaged the turbo. I’d kind of got over it that week and then I got that call and I was like, ‘Oh well, it is what it is.’ We just wanted to get down there early in case anyone else had a penalty.
“The penalty doesn’t help but I think the pace this afternoon was better. I think we made improvements with the car. This morning we weren’t that bad but for sure we wanted to be quicker. I think we made a step forward this afternoon. I think there’s still a little bit left but the long run pace seemed decent so we’ll see.
“All three tires don’t seem that far off at the moment. I know long runs were decent on the super but also the medium… I think Valtteri did a medium that didn’t look too bad from memory, so we’ll see. That opens up options for me. Obviously I’ll start further back for the race so we’ll have a crack and see what happens.”