Verstappen ‘not too worried’ after practice in Bahrain as he predicts ‘very close’ qualifying

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 29: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen has given his assessment of Red Bull’s start to the 2024 season after a low key showing during Thursday’s pair of practice sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Verstappen wound up sixth in FP1 after reporting that Red Bull’s new car felt “miles off” what he expected and stayed in that position during FP2 – winding up half a second away from pace-setting Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton.

FP2: Hamilton fastest from Russell as Mercedes set the pace in second practice in Bahrain

Asked to reflect on the day after hopping out of the RB20, the reigning world champion played down the timesheets, commenting: “I think it was not too bad, it’s just that I think it’s very close.

“Maybe some people around us already turned up the engine a bit in terms of top speed, but we just focus on ourselves, and I think from today, there were a few little balance issues from front to rear, but nothing big.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 29: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen reckons a few teams may have flattered to deceive during Thursday practice

“It’s just about trying to find that sweet spot, and especially around here with the rough tarmac, when you get it into that sweet spot, you just pick up time and that’s what we’ll try to focus on a little bit more for tomorrow.”

Pushed on his feeling that some teams turned up their engines, he added: “I don’t say everyone around us did that, but a few did, so I’m not too worried about the gap to P1, for example.

WATCH: Ride onboard with Hamilton as he sets the fastest lap of Thursday in Bahrain

“But it’s going to be very close, I think, in qualifying, so that I think’s going to be very nice. The long run, I was a bit happier about that, but there’s a few little things we can do better.”

Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, ended the day 10th and explained that his outing was “as expected” after last week’s pre-season test at the same Sakhir venue.

FP2 Highlights: 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

“With Bahrain it’s quite difficult P1 to P2, just learning the track for qualifying and into the race weekend I think will be key for us – it was interesting,” he said.

“I think we got plenty, we explored the car quite a lot, we didn’t have the chance to do it in testing so we are exploring it now with the mechanical balance here and there, so generally speaking it has been good.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from second practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix

As for the pace shown by Red Bull’s rivals, and specifically Mercedes, he said: “We knew… we had a lot of people talking that we were a second ahead and stuff like that, I was just laughing at them.

“I knew that things are a lot closer and they are looking very competitive, and it’s going to be a very tight battle [in qualifying] tomorrow.”



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