RACE DEBRIEF

    Red Bull seemed to have a mixed FP2 in France as Max Verstappen went fastest but Sergio Perez finished just 12th quickest – yet the Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner said there was no concern from his end, while Verstappen talked up his team’s pace after the two Friday practice sessions.

    After Mercedes' one-two in FP1 at Paul Ricard, Red Bull responded in FP2 and Verstappen went fastest by just 0.008s over Valtteri Bottas. However, Perez was not in the top ten by the time running ended, and explained after the session why he struggled on Friday afternoon.

    FP2: Verstappen tops second practice at Paul Ricard, just 0.008s quicker than Bottas

    "I think I got a pretty bad run, some traffic involved, and some changes that probably we took a wrong direction with them," said Perez.

    "I don’t think we were as bad as it looked. Max had a good day on pace and yes I think we are looking there, and I think tomorrow hopefully we are able to find a lot of pace overnight, understand a bit the issues, and we should be there."

    1324223830
    Verstappen is just four points ahead of Hamilton in the Championship

    As for Verstappen, the Dutchman said he wasn't happy in FP1 nor at the start of FP2, when Mercedes seemed nailed on for another one-two. But the Championship leader improved on soft tyres and rallied to set the benchmark time in the second session. He praised his team's improvements amid tough conditions.

    "I think we improved quite well, even during the session," said Verstappen. "Of course, [in] FP1 I wasn’t entirely happy, then FP2 also started still not amazing, but I think on the second set, the car felt a lot better, a lot more connected, but it’s still really difficult around here; the track is very hot, it’s quite windy out there, so it’s not easy to nail the lap."

    WATCH: Max Verstappen says Red Bull 'improved' during Friday practice at Paul Ricard

    Red Bull are a healthy 26 points ahead of Mercedes in the standings, but at this circuit on which the Silver Arrows have won the last two races, they seem to have again gained an early foothold.

    Asked if the Bulls were in the fight for French GP victory, Verstappen concluded by saying: "Difficult to say but for us today, it’s good, but you never know what people will find overnight. But for us long runs seem quite decent today – for sure I expect it to be, again, very tight, but definitely not easy."