Max Verstappen says he was surprised with his long run pace in the second practice session at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix after a difficult start to the day.
Verstappen was 0.617 seconds slower than teammate Sergio Perez in FP1, but was back in front in the more representative FP2, albeit behind Aston Martin‘s Fernando Alonso.
He complained that the car was moving around more compared to testing early in FP2, before slotting into second behind Alonso on the qualifying simulations.
“[It was] a difficult start of the day,” explained Verstappen. “FP1 was really bad. I couldn’t get the balance, which was a bit odd because in testing whatever we tried, OK, some things were maybe not amazing, but it not that far [off]. So a few things to understand
“Even the start of FP2 was a bit difficult. But then I think, for the final run, even though not really having a good reference and confidence up until then, in the car, the lap was not too bad in the short run. Also the car felt a bit more connected.”
Encouraging long run pace for Red Bull
In 2022, Red Bull‘s race pace saw them get the better of Ferrari and it seems that theme of low tyre degradation and fast lap times with heavy fuel will continue into this season.
Verstappen had the best and most consistent long run pace, just ahead of Alonso, so Red Bull are still favourites for the win on Sunday.
“In the long run, with all the changes were made, I was quite surprised that with the pace we had,” said Verstappen.
“Overall, the cars was not that bad. I just need to find my rhythm again with the car in and just the way the car is driving.”
Verstappen has his say on Aston Martin
Whilst Lewis Hamilton alluded to Mercedes having the wrong concept and question marks remaining over Ferrari, Aston Martin appear to be the team who will provide the biggest challenge to Red Bull.
Lance Stroll‘s injury to his wrist will mean he won’t be able to help Alonso in the fight at the front, but the Spaniard could be fighting for the win on merit for the first time since 2013.
Verstappen was eager to focus on Red Bull but credited Aston Martin‘s pace when asked about the Silverstone-based team.
“They are quick but you could already see in testing that they were very competitive,” said Verstappen. “So they had a great day.
“For us still a bit of work to do. We know that we have a very competitive car, it’s just putting all the pieces together.
“If I’m happy in the car again and can push how I want to, over one lap we are very fast, but it’s also making sure the car doesn’t fall out of the window on the long run.”