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PRACTICE DEBRIEF: Why the data suggests a tight fight for pole in Jeddah

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Thursday practice in Saudi Arabia delivered some spectacular shots, as Formula 1 teams got down to business gathering vital information about their cars to help finetune them for qualifying and the Grand Prix. Red Bull looked mighty, as ever, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll have it all their own way, in qualifying at least, with not two, not three but four teams appearing to be in the fight for pole.

Red Bull with a slender margin in quali pace

Max Verstappen cut a relaxed figure as he discussed his antics after the opening day of running in Saudi Arabia, the three-time world champion able to dance his RB20 around the high-speed change of directions found around Jeddah’s 27-turn street circuit.

The car looked like a menace, both with low-fuel on soft tyres, and on higher fuel on longer stints. Sure, they didn’t top the timesheets, but like in Bahrain, Verstappen was nonplussed as it’s likely they were running their power units at a lower level than rivals.

READ MORE: Verstappen predicts ‘very, very tight’ qualifying in Saudi Arabia

According to our data, they have an edge over the field in qualifying simulations – though that advantage is only just over a tenth per lap quicker than the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin. So he and team mate Sergio Perez must be on their game to ensure pole.

Things look more comfortable when it comes to race trim, with the Red Bulls doubling that advantage to 0.2s over the rest of the field. Traditionally, they tend to eke that gap out come race day, so they are looking in good shape to challenge for a second straight one-two.

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