Verstappen hails positive start for Red Bull at COTA as Perez eyes damage limitation in qualifying
Max Verstappen is confident that Red Bull will be fighting at the sharp end once again in the United States, despite a largely unrepresentative first day of running at the Circuit of The Americas clouding the early performance picture.
After the usual hour-long FP1 session, an extended FP2 saw drivers run on prototype Pirelli tyres as part of a special test to help the suppliers fine-tune their slick compounds ahead of the 2023 campaign.
READ MORE: Leclerc tops extended practice session in Austin as drivers test 2023 Pirelli tyres
But given the balance of his Red Bull throughout the opening encounter, and a best lap that was quick enough for P2 on the timesheets, newly-crowned double world champion Verstappen expressed early optimism as he looks to add to the five pole positions and 12 race wins he has achieved so far this season.
“FP1 was quite good. We tried a few things with the car and I think immediately we were there, so it was very positive. Of course, we knew FP2 was going to be different [with the tyre test]. It was a bit difficult to get a proper read, but at least we completed the programme,” said Verstappen, who placed seventh in second practice.
Asked if the unusual second session was a setback, he commented: “It’s the same for everyone. We have a bit of information from FP1 and I think the car was already in quite a decent window. Let’s see tomorrow – first of all – how we are over one lap. The long run is a little bit more of a question mark, just because we all missed FP2, but I think it’s going to be OK.”
Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez, was fifth fastest in FP1, fresh from the news that he will be hit with a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race after taking on a new internal combustion engine – something that’s on his mind ahead of qualifying.
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“I think we managed to get a good FP1, good information. We tested a few bits across cars, so hopefully for tomorrow we will be able to get everything right. Given that we have a penalty, we need a good quali to be able to start as forward as possible,” Perez said, having gone on to finish 10th in FP2.
As for what can be improved on his side of the garage overnight, the Mexican added: “I think we have a bit of balance [to work on] with the high speed versus the low speed, so I think we need to improve a bit the balance to be able to improve [tyre] degradation – everything will come together.”