RACE DEBRIEF

    Red Bull are neither down nor out after a challenging opening day in Spain, but Max Verstappen said they have plenty of work to do to fight Ferrari in qualifying – and keep Mercedes in their mirrors.

    The Dutch driver finished third in FP1 then fifth in FP2 on Friday as the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix weekend got under way – with his title rival Charles Leclerc topping both sessions for Ferrari. Verstappen was therefore pragmatic in his assessment of the RB18 after FP2, and pointed out the searing heat as the team’s biggest obstacle.

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    “A bit tricky to find the balance, with the heat as well,” he said. “We clearly still have a bit of work to do over one lap but long runs – at least they look quite decent, so I’m happy with that, just to try and find the middle way.

    “It’s tough on the tyres of course around here. Clearly, we are not on top of that yet in terms of balance. At least we know that the weather is going to be consistent, so we can just work from here,” he added.

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    High temperatures made for tough going in Spain

    With Mercedes having found a turn of pace in FP2, as they finished P2 and P3, Verstappen was asked if he was concerned about the silver cars. But he replied: “I mean, I’ve got my sheet, so I could see where we are, that’s why I also said we have to work a bit on the one-lap pace.”

    Team mate Sergio Perez didn’t take part in FP1 as F2 driver Juri Vips stepped in, but the Mexican returned for FP2 and finished seventh, behind home hero Fernando Alonso. He also cited high temperatures when explaining why his practice session was so difficult.

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    “Everything comes really fast you know, getting up to speed, the tyre degrading straight away, so you basically have two laps. Because it’s not a track where the tyre stays new, you basically have one lap to have a read on the balance and then after that you’re just getting up to speed, but you don’t have really the peak grip. So, in that regard a bit difficult,” said Perez.

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    Perez stepped out of the car for FP1 as Juri Vips took the wheel

    “The long run, I think I was able to get a read in it. I think in high fuel we got a pretty good idea on which direction to take more or less but yeah, I think in the lower fuel, it’s the main compromise.

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    “Hopefully tonight I am able to find the time I need to be in contention for tomorrow’s fight.”

    Red Bull are just six points behind rivals Ferrari in the championship – while Verstappen is only 19 behind Leclerc with FP3 and qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix up next.