Max Verstappen has delivered an ominous warning to Formula 1 rival Mercedes by claiming his Red Bull is already considerably improved compared to a week ago.
Verstappen set the fastest time in Friday practice at the Red Bull Ring with a lap of one minute 03.660secs, a fraction ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, with Lewis Hamilton almost seven-tenths off the pace.
The time may yet be good enough for pole position if forecasted thunderstorms wash out qualifying tomorrow and on the back-up of Sunday morning.
Praising the hard work of his team for delivering a quicker car, Verstappen said: “It already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer to drive and we have made a good step.
"It is only Friday practice and, of course, it is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but from our side I think we are quite happy.
"We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and I think we are heading the right way which I’m pleased about."
Looking ahead to the race on Sunday, Verstappen added: "Normally our race pace is more competitive.
"But already over one lap we can’t complain, and actually the 11 laps I did in last week’s race [before retiring] didn’t look too bad, so it can only get better."
By contrast, team-mate Alex Albon struggled, ending the day seventh after twice spinning in FP2, notably late on when he slid across the gravel. The Thai-British driver is hopeful he can learn from his team-mate.
“We’ll still treat tonight like any other Friday and look over the data to see what we can learn ahead of tomorrow," said Albon.
"Late in the session I pushed a bit too much on the exit of the corner, nothing serious, and lost the rear.
"Max obviously had a good session and is comfortable with the car so hopefully we can learn a little bit from his side of the garage and take a step forward."
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