Verstappen expects to close on Ferrari and Mercedes after down-on-power Friday
Performing well at Spa means a lot to Max Verstappen, given that he was born just an hour away from the track. But a lack of grunt from his Honda power unit hampered the Red Bull driver during Friday’s free practice sessions, with Verstappen ending FP2 well over a second off Charles Leclerc’s leading time for Ferrari.
It was Ferrari that dominated proceedings in Belgium, as Verstappen finished closest to Leclerc and team mate Sebastian Vettel in FP1. Come FP2, though, Verstappen found himself down in P6, and behind the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, with the Dutchman complaining throughout the session of an issue with his Friday power unit’s throttle response – a problem he hoped would be eradicated when he switched to his proper qualifying power unit on Saturday.
“The car actually didn’t feel too bad,” said Verstappen at the end of his Friday’s running. “We were quite competitive in the second sector but the whole day I couldn’t use my normal power, so we had to drive bit on the lower power the whole day to what we normally use on a Friday, so that was not ideal around here, and that’s why I think we’re a bit further off at the moment, but it should be better tomorrow when we put the other engine in.”
I don’t expect to beat Ferrari, but hopefully we can be a bit closer to Mercedes
Verstappen conceded that, power unit issues or not, Ferrari clearly looked to be the class of the field in Spa. So, that being the case, how did he see Saturday’s qualifying session panning out?
“I don’t think we can beat Ferrari but at least we can be closer,” he said. “I think this track definitely suits them a bit better than us. They are very strong. They gain a lot of lap time on the straight here, but I think that’s not a surprise. We’ll just try to do the best we can from our side.
“I don’t expect to beat Ferrari, but hopefully we can be a bit closer to Mercedes because it seems they were also a bit off compared to Ferrari.”
A strong race from Verstappen in Spa could see him leapfrog Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas for second place in the drivers’ standings, with the Red Bull driver currently just seven points off the Finn, having won two of the previous four races.
Drivers' standings ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix
|1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes||250|
|2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes||188|
|3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing||181|