Max Verstappen conceded Ferrari looks ‘very strong” ahead of the Australian Grand Prix but remains confident his Red Bull team can take the fight to the Scuderia in the race itself.
Ferrari topped both Friday sessions as F1 returned to Australia as Verstappen struggled with car balance and his team-mate Sergio Perez suffered from a lack of track time.
“FP1 and the beginning of FP2 we were lacking a bit of balance, then for the final run we changed the car around a bit and I felt a lot happier," explained Verstappen.
“I had a car in front of me in my final lap so that didn’t help. We are a tiny bit off Ferrari, but I think over the weekend we will maybe make it a bit closer. You never know for tomorrow but so far they seem again very strong.
“We still have a bit of work to do but we are more or less there. In the long run everything looked quite stable and quite nice, so I am happy about that so we definitely made some good improvements today.
“We are in a good direction and we have to build from there and hopefully we can make some tiny adjustments also for tomorrow.”
Verstappen also praised the changes to the track since F1’s last visit, adding: “It’s good, I think the track grip is quite nice, the bumps have definitely improved, it’s a bit smoother.
“I think it also makes the track nicer as well, because you can attack the corners better now so they did a good job with that and, yeah, I enjoyed my laps today.”
Perez – “A few tenths and we change our life”
Perez complained of a “challenging” day and, despite showing good pace alongside Verstappen, he conceded that his engineers currently “don’t really understand” the issues.
“It was challenging,” said Perez. “I think we did some changes that going into this afternoon we had to analyse, a few things that are not working as expected, so it has been a very difficult day in terms of mileage.
“But I think we have really good data for tonight. There is plenty to work on to try to understand the direction we have taken.
“We are talking about a few tenths and we change our life, so we just have to understand where we are at the moment because we don’t really understand what’s going on with the car at the moment.”