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Verstappen reflects on ‘messy’ first day in Australia as Perez predicts ‘quite a challenge’ from Ferrari

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen admitted that he had a “messy” day as the track action got underway at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday, with the world champion’s running time in Free Practice 2 delayed following some damage sustained in the first session.

Verstappen went wide during FP1, resulting in some work needing to be carried out on the floor of his Red Bull as the second practice hour got underway. The Dutchman eventually hit the track after around 20 minutes and ultimately ended the day in second on the timesheets.

READ MORE: FP2: Leclerc sets the pace during second practice in Australia from Verstappen and Sainz

Asked to summarise Friday’s running, Verstappen said: “Unfortunately a little bit messy because of what happened in FP1. I went wide, damaged the floor and also the chassis. It took a little bit longer to fix that unfortunately, so I lost like 20 minutes.

“I do think the turnaround was very quick, we did it as a team so I more or less completed the programme still. Long-run I would have liked maybe a few more laps, but with missing 20 minutes that’s how it goes.”

Charles Leclerc set the pace ahead of Verstappen and the Red Bull driver acknowledged that the Scuderia looked fast, though he remains positive about his own weekend ahead.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen faced a delayed start to his running in FP2 after sustaining some floor damage in FP1

“I think it was alright,” Verstappen commented in regards to what he had learned in FP1 and FP2. “I think Ferrari is quick, but from our side I think there are also a few more things that we can fine-tune, so nothing crazy, nothing worrying.

“I think, yeah, [we] just need to fine-tune a little bit the car.”

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On the other side of the garage, Sergio Perez ended the day in P8 and afterwards spoke of the challenging conditions posed by the sunshine and the wind.

“As usual Melbourne is quite tricky, especially when we go to the afternoon,” the Mexican explained. “Just visibility is super poor with the sun pretty much on your face, so it’s really hard to see.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to

Perez believes that Ferrari could pose a threat to Red Bull during the Australian Grand Prix weekend

“But overall I think we’ve got some work to do. I think the degradation wasn’t great on that long run so there’s some work to do, and [we’ll] go from there.”

After not looking entirely comfortable in Melbourne last year, Perez has been feeling more at one with the RB20 at the Albert Park Circuit this time around, saying of his prospects this year: "I think we are in a good place, so we should be looking strong for tomorrow.”

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

Asked about whether he was surprised by the gap to Ferrari on one-lap pace, Perez responded: “They’ve been quite strong I think [at] this track, [it] seems to be better for them. They’ve been quite strong also on the long runs, so I think they will be quite a challenge to beat this weekend.”

And in terms of whether the Italian outfit can pose a genuine threat for pole position and victory this weekend, he added: “Yeah, I think so. I think they’re generally quite fast so that will be interesting.”

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