Max sees ‘plenty of room for improvement’ to chase Ferrari

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, drives close to the wall. Saudi Arabia March 2022.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen feels Ferrari have the edge in Saudi Arabia, but is confident that more is to come from his team.

Ferrari and Red Bull were the leading duo at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but considering how little separated them in terms of outright pace, their final results could not have been any more different.

While Charles Leclerc lead home a Ferrari one-two, taking the race win ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, Verstappen suffered a late retirement while running P2 with only a few laps to go.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez would also retire in the closing stages, spinning out at Turn 1 as his RB18 shut down and the wheels locked, both retirements caused by a lack of fuel pressure.

Formula 1 has moved on now though to Saudi Arabia, where once again it seems that Ferrari and Red Bull are leading the pack.

Leclerc topped both Friday practice sessions, but Verstappen is confident that pace remains within the RB18 to apply pressure.

Verstappen did not set a push lap on the soft tyre in FP1, nonetheless ending the session a tenth down on Leclerc, while in FP2 yellow flags wrecked his soft-tyre run.

“The sessions ran quite smoothly today, we completed our programme and tried out lots of different tyre sets,” Verstappen told the Red Bull website.

“It seems like Ferrari were quite competitive again, we still have a little bit of work to do to catch up with them and there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“The track feels pretty much the same as last year, the barriers have moved slightly and in terms of visibility, it hasn’t made a noticeable impact. Looking ahead to qualifying, we still need to look at some data, we’ll see how it all goes tomorrow.”

 

Like in Bahrain, Red Bull split their programmes for practice as Perez ended FP2 in P4, just over a tenth-and-a-half down on Verstappen.

Perez said though that due to traffic around this super fast street circuit, he struggled to deliver a representative flying lap.

“We ran both cars on different programmes and I think we got the data we needed, so now we have some work to do tonight,” he said.

“It was difficult to get the lap in I needed to see exactly how we will perform over one lap here because I had a lot of traffic out there.

“I think it could be another straight shootout with Ferrari on Saturday but at the moment we are focusing on ourselves and hopefully tomorrow we are able to make the steps we’d like with the car.

“It will be important in qualifying to make sure we get the space for a clean lap because traffic can be a bit difficult around here so we need to make sure we are on it.”