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Verstappen Foresees Tight Race Battle

Verstappen Foresees Tight Race Battle

02/03/2024

In a stunning turnaround, Max Verstappen overcame practice struggles in Bahrain, claiming pole position in a nail-biting qualifier, outpacing rivals Leclerc and Russell.

Max Verstappen appeared to struggle more than expected in free practice at Bahrain, notably in FP2. However, the Red Bull driver managed to overcome these temporary difficulties to secure pole position ahead of Charles Leclerc and George Russell, even though Ferrari had the potential to clinch the fastest time in Q3.

The truly revolutionary RB20 design has thus been validated on the track: is this a major relief for Max Verstappen after winter testing?

“The testing went very well, but there has been a lot of wind so far this weekend, and it’s been a bit harder to find the right balance for the car.”

“I think we’ve found some good improvements on the car, and that’s what allowed us to make that lap in qualifying.”

Unlike Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen was able to make significant progress from Q2 to Q3: how did he manage it? Do new soft tires explain everything?

“I just had a bit more grip. On the first lap, I didn’t really get a good feeling. The tires never really came to life. And then on the last lap, yes, I felt more comfortable in Turn 1.”

“In general, we always look at the competitors to see if they are better in certain turns. So, there’s always a discussion throughout the qualifying session. You need to find a bit more time or figure it out on your own. You know, maybe you feel that in a particular turn, you haven’t found the right balance yet and you try to correct that.”

Max Verstappen had the advantage in the first sector, and Charles Leclerc in the second and third sectors (which require a bit more downforce). What can we conclude from this?

“The second sector, maybe not so much. But in the last sector, yes, the entire weekend was marked by this weakness. So, yes, I couldn’t go any faster. That’s what the car was giving me.”

Is there a three-tenths gap between the Red Bull and Ferrari F1 cars? Over a single lap, it seems closer than that…

“It was a very close qualifying and I think the conditions were also quite tricky with the wind throughout the weekend. So, yes, if you’re comfortable right away, you can find a tenth, a tenth and a half in a corner. And I think that was good for us in Q2, Q3, especially in Q3, I would say. We always made a bit of progress.”

“You could see that the gaps were very tight and you never really knew who was going to be on pole before Q3. So, I think it was very exciting to watch.”

Max Verstappen also gained a small tenth thanks to the slipstream from Oscar Piastri’s McLaren F1.

“I had to let him pass because there wasn’t enough space. So, I followed him a bit into Turn 1, which allowed me to gain a bit of time, but not as much as the gap to Charles.”

The gear shifting issues, which were already present last year, continued to trouble the Milton Keynes driver this weekend…

“It’s something that’s been around for a while, but we’re always trying to optimize these things. But it wasn’t really behind the car’s balance issue. It was just about trying to get it into the right window with the front axle and rear axle. On a circuit like this, which is quite hard on the tires, the tarmac is very aggressive and a small slide or tire lockup can cost you a lot of time per lap. So, it’s about small things that can significantly improve the car.”

Verstappen anticipates tight margins in the Grand Prix

Now it’s race time: is Red Bull’s advantage in long runs as significant as the competition fears?

“We’ve done quite a few long runs now, to the point of almost getting tired of it. Yes, I’m confident we have a good race car, but on long runs, as we saw on Friday, the gaps are small and tight. And it’s a matter of paying attention to details – and that will also make a difference tomorrow.”

“I feel like the competition has gotten closer because until qualifying, I didn’t have a good feeling, whereas last year it was a bit better, we were a bit stronger throughout the weekend. So, yes, we’ll see how it evolves.”

“Of course, there will be a bit less wind. That might be a bit more pleasant to drive. But yes, it’s always exciting here with the elevation changes and many overtaking opportunities and racing in general.”

Verstappen Foresees Tight Race Battle. Verstappen Foresees Tight Race Battle

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