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Red Bull: Mercedes looks quick – but ‘difficult to drive’

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MELBOURNE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 14: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10 during the

On paper, Mercedes blew everyone away in Free Practice 2 in Melbourne, finishing the session eight tenths clear of their nearest rival, the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. But speaking after Friday’s running, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner seemed content with his team’s work nonetheless – while he also issued a warning shot that Mercedes’ W10 car, while clearly fast, looked like a tough beast to handle.

Asked about Red Bull’s pace on Friday compared to Mercedes and Ferrari – with the team running their Honda power units in anger for the first time – Horner replied: “Long runs we look pretty sensible. I think the one-lap pace of the Mercedes in [FP2] looked pretty impressive. But the car looks stiff and difficult to drive, so whether that's sustainable for a Grand Prix, I don't know.

FP2: Hamilton heads Bottas as Mercedes go clear of the field

“Ferrari looked like they under-delivered to what we thought they had in testing, and our guys both had pretty decent runs. Max got quite a bit of traffic on his fast laps but I think there's more potential there, there's more set-up changes. We don't know what fuel loads people are running, but it looks interesting.”

Verstappen and new team mate Pierre Gasly ended up P3 and P4 in FP2, the pair separated by just 0.042s. And while believing there was more fine-tuning to be done on the RB15 over Friday night, Verstappen was happy enough with his new car’s performance out of the box in Australia.

“We for sure have some things to improve, but I think everyone has,” said Verstappen. “It's the first day – you start here. It's been alright. The Mercedes looks very quick. We've got lots of work to do and for sure we'll analyse a lot.

“There are always areas to improve, so we're looking at that tonight. From the engine side, no problems. [Honda] just went very smoothly and things were good. I guess we'll find out more later on in qualifying.”

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