RACE DEBRIEF

    Off the back of a difficult weekend at Monza, Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Alex Albon ended Friday at the new-to-F1 Mugello track much happier, as they finished Free Practice 2 for the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix in third and fourth, behind only the Mercedes drivers.

    After a point-less race for the team at the Italian Grand Prix, Verstappen – who tested a GT car at Mugello a few weeks ago to get his eye in – was quickly up to speed with the Tuscan circuit, as he finished FP2 just 0.246s behind Valtteri Bottas’ leading time, and 0.039s off second-placed Lewis Hamilton – with Albon a slightly more distant P4, 0.775s off Verstappen’s time, and narrowly ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo.

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    “I’m pretty pleased with how the car was behaving,” said Verstappen at the end of Friday. “We were not too far off Mercedes so that was a good thing, and also balance-wise – of course, always things to improve but overall I was pretty pleased.

    “It’s a very cool track,” he added. “There are so many fast corners, and in a Formula 1 car, to take especially Arrabbiata 1 and 2 flat-out easily is quite incredible, so it’s really nice and really enjoyable to drive.”

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    "It's a very cool track," said Verstappen

    Despite the gulf between himself and his team mate, Albon said that Red Bull's positive performance on Friday at Mugello felt like a return to normality for the team, with Verstappen – used to slotting into P3 in qualifying behind the Mercedes pair this year – having been outqualified at Monza by a McLaren and a Racing Point, as well as the Mercedes duo, last weekend.

    “It was alright,” said Albon of his day. “I just need a bit more balance in the car, but actually I think relatively happy. Obviously coming from Monza, we were struggling a little bit, so a bit more of a conventional circuit and fingers crossed everything’s back to normal.”

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    Looking ahead to Sunday’s race, meanwhile, Albon gave a hint at Red Bull’s strategy, while admitting that the three hardest Pirelli compounds in use this weekend appeared to be more robust than he’d been expecting on Mugello's abrasive tarmac.

    “[The tyres] are holding up surprisingly well,” he said. “I’m not too sure why, but even the softs are performing pretty well so it’s all looking pretty reasonable out there. I don’t think we’ll have any of the issues like we did at Silverstone – but I still think we’ll be doing a few pit stops…”

    Max Verstappen 'pretty pleased' with first day at Mugello