Red Bull’s season has been a mixed bag so far. They’ve produced a car that is capable of mixing it at the front and took a brilliant win with Ricciardo in China. But they’ve also had two double DNFs in four races and are already 59 points behind championship leaders Ferrari.
In a bid to fight back, Red Bull brought the biggest update of all the teams to Barcelona, including revised bargeboards, floor and sidepods.
Ricciardo crashed in first practice, but recovered in the second session to end the day just 0.133s off the pace set by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Verstappen was just over a tenth further back in third, with both drivers also looking quick over longer runs.
“We have a lot of updates on the car,” said Ricciardo. “We are still figuring out how to optimise those, but we don’t seem too far away. We can still make the car a bit better so that is encouraging so it was not too bad in the end.
“This morning I had a mistake, but we cleaned it up and this afternoon was a pretty good session. We got our heads down and did some laps.
“It was important for this new car now - there are a lot of aerodynamicists upstairs - so we needed the laps to give them as much feedback as possible.
“This afternoon the car was better. We can still find some things but we will try and discover some more tonight.”
Verstappen was pretty happy with how the car handled, too. “The car has been working quite well,” he said. “Of course you always want to improve it but not too many issues. Especially in the long run we had a very good balance, and that’s always good.”
Several drivers reported problems getting the tyres to work, particularly on the supersoft which is around two steps softer than the softest compound Pirelli brought to the venue last year.
“We didn’t really get it [the super soft] working,” said Ricciardo. “The front tyres don’t really seem like they are working well with these conditions.
“[I had] a lot of understeer and wasn’t able to come back. On the high fuel it was a bit better. Then we put the softs on and it was a lot quicker. So the supersoft, unless something changes, it doesn’t look like a nice tyre this weekend.”
Red Bull’s recent form in Spain is solid. Ricciardo finished third in Barcelona last year, while Verstappen won – on his debut with the team – at the venue in 2016.