RACE DEBRIEF

    Much of the talk coming into last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix was about whether Max Verstappen could take a hat-trick of wins at his team’s home track after victories in 2018 and 2019.

    In the end he was outpaced in qualifying by the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, and was robbed of the chance to really show his race pace when an electrical problem on his Red Bull-Honda put him out of the Grand Prix on lap 11.

    But ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix – again being held on the Red Bull Ring – the Dutchman topped the timing sheets in Friday’s second free practice session ahead of Bottas, and said the car felt “much better than last week”.

    WATCH: Ride onboard with Verstappen for the fastest time of Friday practice

    “I think we’ve made a good step,” he said after he finished 0.043s ahead of Bottas in FP2. "Of course it’s still too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes but for our side I think we are quite happy. I’m happy – the balance is a lot nicer to drive as well so that’s good.”

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    Verstappen is hoping he will be able to fight for victory this Sunday

    The Dutchman said the team had been experimenting with set-up direction, but is confident they are finding the sweet spot on the new RB16 – and expects even more performance on Sunday.

    “Normally in the race we are a bit more competitive but already I think over one lap we can’t complain,” he said. “It’s [only] Friday practice but I feel happy in the car, happier than what I had last week, and last week for the 11 laps I did it didn’t look too bad, so it can only get better.”

    Verstappen’s team mate Alex Albon had a slightly frustrating session, finish seventh fastest after two spins in FP2.

    Styria FP2: Albon spins at Turn 3

    He explained: “I just lost the rear – nothing serious. I think Max is a bit more comfortable than me at the minute with [the car]. We’ve done a few things, some things which have worked, some things haven’t, so tonight we’ll have a look through and see what’s what.”

    But he too was confident the team is making progress with the car. “I think we made a step forward and we just need to see how it looks on data,” he added.

    FP2 REPORT: Verstappen heads Bottas and Perez at the Red Bull Ring as Ricciardo crashes