Max Verstappen said the fact Ferrari are at the front alongside Red Bull is “very exciting” and bodes well for the weekend and season ahead.
The World Champion narrowly edged ahead of Charles Leclerc in FP2 on Friday, with teams and drivers having tried out their first qualifying simulations in Bahrain, with Red Bull and Ferrari thought to be the two fastest teams heading into the weekend.
He was pleased with how his own car performed throughout Friday, leaving him optimistic after a day without issues behind the wheel.
“The car felt good,” Verstappen said on Sky Sports F1 after practice. “We have been testing here so I think overall you’re in a better window to start with, but I felt alright.
“We tried a few things on the car and they all seemed to be working well, so [it was] quite a straightforward and smooth day actually, so I’m really happy with that.”
Number ☝️ under the Bahrain lights 🤩✨ pic.twitter.com/m84nNM5sAj
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) March 18, 2022
Having tested both short and long-run pace, the Dutchman added that the RB18 was coping with every challenge it faced around Sakhir, and having Ferrari in the fight at the front will be an enticing prospect – with the caveat that teams will only turn their cars up to full wick in qualifying.
“Very good [in] both,” he said of his car’s runs on low and high fuel. “Basically whatever happens in the short run, you try and correct a bit on the long run and the car was doing all of it.
“So very pleased, but you can see Ferrari is pushing hard and they’re very close, but that’s very exciting as well.
“We have to wait and see a little bit also with engine modes tomorrow, from all the teams, to really see where you are… I think everyone is still not, let’s say, qualy spec. So we have to wait, but it’s looking good.”
Having had a season-long dice with Mercedes throughout 2021, the Silver Arrows appeared off the pace in Bahrain on Friday, with Lewis Hamilton admitting the team is facing “much bigger problems” with their car than they have had to deal with in recent years.
But Verstappen said he would be patient and simply wait for their ultimate pace in qualifying before making a judgement.
“No, not yet but again, we’ll have to wait and see tomorrow when everyone is turning their engines up fully, how much is really there,” he added.
Six teams made their way into the top 10 and the field was covered relatively closely throughout practice, with hopes being high that the new cars will be able to compete closely together on track – which was a significant reason behind the new regulations introduced for 2022.
“It’s good, I think that’s in general what everyone wants, right?” Said Verstappen. “To have the teams a bit closer together and I think over time it will only get closer, so that’s good.”