Max Verstappen finished P2 in both Friday practice sessions for the Sakhir Grand Prix. Nevertheless, the Dutchman said he expected a lot of homework from his Red Bull team on Friday night to get the RB16 in the right window on the fast and hectic Outer Track of the Bahrain International Circuit, after what he described as a “tricky” one. day.
With Mercedes debutant George Russell – who will be filling in for Covid sideline Lewis Hamilton this weekend – at the head of both Free Practice 1 and 2 on Friday, Verstappen enjoyed what on paper appeared to be a positive day, taking him on both occasions Finished P2 for Russell, and within two-tenths of the Brit all day.
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But hearing Verstappen complain about understeer and a bizarre ‘limping’ feeling – as he put it – on the suspension of his car, he summed up his Friday’s’ pretty hard ‘and added:’ I think balance still did not. I don’t find the optimal set-up, so especially in the short term it seems like we are still a bit lacking. Long term didn’t seem so bad, but even there I think we can do better.
“Valtteri’s lap was canceled,” added Verstappen, referring to Mercedes ‘Valtteri Bottas’ lost 54.506 second lap in FP2, which would have been 0.335 seconds faster than Verstappen’s 54.841 seconds. “We are three and a half tenths away [Bottas’ deleted time] so that’s quite a bit. We still have to find more, especially work on qualifying, and again in the race we have to improve a little more to be competitive. ”
Teammate Alex Albon meanwhile took a P3 in FP1 and a P5 in FP2 – his fastest lap in the second session when he encountered Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri around the 3.5km short lap, which took him some time. But the Thai driver was more optimistic about his performance than his teammate, although he admitted he was somewhat surprised at why he felt more competitive in FP1 than FP2.
“It was okay out there,” said Albon. “[The track] has its own uniqueness; it is so short that it is really essential to get the set up perfect. Actually, FP1 was better than FP2 for us, so we’ll think about it, see what we did right and wrong, and come back tomorrow.
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“To be honest, it felt like we had more grip in FP1 than in FP2. A little grip at the back, a little grip at the front, but especially grip at the front we miss in that FP2 session. We’ll look, but the race pace actually looks pretty good, so that’s a positive. “
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Meanwhile, as the drivers tackled an alternate layout of the Bahrain circuit they competed in last weekend, Albon – who took his second career podium behind Hamilton and Verstappen in the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday – called the new configuration ‘nice’ and said, ‘It’s so short, you have to get it perfect. But it is quite fun and actually quite challenging. I enjoy it – I just have to be faster! “