RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen capped off a positive 2021 pre-season test for Red Bull at the Bahrain International Circuit by posting the fastest time of the whole three days on the final afternoon’s running – with the Dutchman clear that 2021 had marked his best ever build up to a season yet.

    Red Bull had lapped quickly and reliably throughout pre-season testing – the only issues having been a spin for Verstappen on day one and an incident on day two when new team mate Sergio Perez lost the engine cover off the RB16B while overtaking Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

    READ MORE: Verstappen puts Red Bull on top as pre-season testing comes to an end

    But having looked rapid, Verstappen then underlined the team’s strong performance on Sunday afternoon, setting the fastest lap of the whole three days with a 1m 28.960s – becoming the only driver to lap below 1m 29s in Bahrain.

    “Definitely, I think it has been the best,” said Verstappen, when asked if this had been his strongest run-in to a new season. “But it doesn't give you any guarantees, so we’ll find out throughout the first race weekend where we are.

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    Verstappen posted the fastest time of the test

    “We did our programme, and compared to my first day [on Friday], the conditions were quite a bit different so we had to adjust the car a little bit to it. But I think from our side it was very smooth and happy with our progress throughout the whole test.

    “We always look into what we can improve,” he added. “And for sure there are some things we want to work on. But I guess every team has that.”

    READ MORE: Bottas says 2021 title win still on the cards despite ‘most challenging’ pre-season yet with Mercedes

    While 12 months ago, Red Bull’s RB16 looked skittish at pre-season testing in Barcelona, the RB16B has looked a much more stable car – with the team’s reserve driver Alex Albon having worked hard over the winter to “iron out” the previous car’s issues, in his words.

    And Verstappen confirmed that the new car was a positive step on from the old one, despite the loss of downforce resulting from the 2021 regulation changes.

    “So far, it's been quite a stable car, so it's nice,” he said. “There are a lot of changes made as well to the floor, so it's always a bit difficult once you know you'll lose a bit of downforce on the car with this floor.

    TESTING DAY 3: Onboard as Verstappen sets fastest lap of F1 pre-season

    “I’m looking forward to [the first race],” he added. “I guess everyone is now, but I personally find a race weekend a lot more interesting. But of course these days need to be done to understand the car better.”

    READ MORE: Red Bull are a ‘different animal’ in 2021 says Hamilton as he expects ‘great battle’ this year

    With Mercedes having struggled throughout most of pre-season testing, it remains to be seen where the two teams will stack up when they face each other over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, set to take place on March 26-28.