Charles Leclerc says he was shocked by Max Verstappen’s pace during Friday’s free practice sessions ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.
Ferrari set the pace in FP1 through Sebastian Vettel, before Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes in P1 at the conclusion of FP2.
An engine cooling issue and heavy traffic caused Leclerc to finish FP2 in P7, but it was the pace showed by Red Bull which surprised the 21-year-old most.
Despite two long straights at the Shanghai International Cicruit, something which in theory should expose their remaining power deficit with the Honda engine, Verstappen finished just two tenths shy of Bottas and P2 Vettel in the second practice session.
“I think it will be very close, Mercedes and also Red Bull are actually quite close, so will be an interesting battle,” he told reporters in Shanghai.
“Red Bull are definitely closer than we expected, so that’s good to see. It will be a good fight between the three teams, I think.”
Vettel claimed that he had no certain expectations going into the weekend, but that the team “still have some homework to do”.
“I Didn’t expect much today, I think we still have some homework to do,” he explained.
“It looks a similar picture to Bahrain where we are competitive, but parts where we are strong and parts where we are not so strong.”
Vettel went from finishing fastest by 0.2s in FP1 to P2 in the second session, but he didn’t notice any drop in performance.
“There was no difference for us, I’m not sure if there was for other people,” he stated.
“I think it was close also in FP1, if you look at just one lap it’s never the full picture.
“I expect it to be close tomorrow and in the race on Sunday.”