Verstappen focusing on race pace as he declares Ferrari ‘miles ahead’ on pure speed
He split the Ferrari's in FP2 in Mexico, but Max Verstappen concedes that the Scuderia are likely to leave Red Bull behind in qualifying, the Dutchman pinning his hopes on clawing the advantage back in race conditions.
P2 in second practice was a statement of intent from Verstappen, who is aiming for a third-straight win at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, this time with Honda power in his Red Bull RB15.
The 22-year-old was just a tenth off FP2 leader Sebastian Vettel on Friday, but witnessed first-hand just how quick Ferrari could be on Saturday – provided it all stays dry, of course.
“I don’t think in qualifying we can fight with them – they’re just too quick,” said Verstappen. “The rest are pretty much in the same speed range, but [Ferrari are] just miles ahead. But that’s how it is at the moment, we just can’t gain the time back in the corners, unfortunately.”
“But I guess for us we just have to focus a bit more on the race, see that we can keep the tyres under control and then I think it will still be a good race,” he said.
The caveat for Vettel and team mate Leclerc, whose pace was ominous for those hoping to have a shot at pole, was that the soft tyres had a fleeting advantage at the high-altitude, low-grip venue.
“Initially it felt good, but you can see everyone is having trouble with them,” was Verstappen’s verdict on the soft compound.
Red Bull’s day didn’t go completely to plan, however, as Alex Albon crashed out of FP2 and ended up last in the standings – owning up to what he called a "careless mistake".
A helping hand could come from the forecast on Sunday, with rain expected in Mexico. It could add yet another challenge for the drivers, and reduce Ferrari's straight-line advantage significantly.