Max Verstappen admits Red Bull struggled to get its car in the right performance window during Friday practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix but believes the team’s potential pace remains strong.
Red Bull was the class of the field during pre-season testing, running reliably and with impressive performance throughout the three days last week. However, Verstappen was slower than teammate Sergio Perez who led the way in FP1, and then ended up 0.169s off Fernando Alonso in the afternoon session as Aston Martin showed comparable pace.
“Difficult start of the day,” Verstappen said. “FP1 was really bad. Couldn’t get a balance, which was a bit odd, because in testing whatever we tried… OK, some things were maybe not amazing, but not that far out.
“So a few things to understand — even the start of FP2 was a bit difficult but then for the final run, even though not having a good reference and confidence in the car, the lap was not too bad on the short run. Also the car felt a bit more connected.
“The long run, with all the changes we made, I was quite surprised with the pace we had. Overall the car is not too bad in the long run. Just need to find my rhythm again with the car and just the way the car is driving from short run to the long run.”
While Verstappen was impressed by Aston Martin’s performance as Alonso matched his race simulation. “Yeah, quick! But you could see that in testing that they were very competitive. They had a great day.”
Even so, the defending champion believes there’s a lot more to come from Red Bull if it can understand the cause of its struggles overnight.
“For us still a bit of work to do,” he admitted. “We know we have a very competitive car, it’s just now putting all the pieces together.
“I think if I feel happy in the car again and I can push like I want to push with the car on one lap, then for sure we are very fast. But it’s also making sure the car doesn’t fall out of the window for the long run.”