Max Verstappen sees the Renaults as a big threat in qualifying and expects it to be a tight battle between him and them for P3.
Verstappen expected to be closer to the midfield than to Mercedes at the Russian Grand Prix, and so far that has been the case, with Daniel Ricciardo finishing ahead of him in both FP1 and FP2.
While he also finished behind the McLaren’s and Sergio Perez in the latter session, he sees the French team as the biggest threat to his usual P3 slot in qualifying.
“Clearly Renault so far,” he told Sky F1 when asked who his biggest threat is.
“Today they have been very competitive, and you never know who else, but I think first of all we have to look at ourselves and make the right trade-off with downforce levels as well to make sure the car is stable.
“And then I’m quite confident that quali will be tight but I think we can be in the fight.”
Sochi has never been a particularly strong track for Red Bull given the lack of tight corners and the importance it places on straight-line speed.
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) September 25, 2020
Nevertheless, Verstappen is optimistic that, with the right setup, he’ll be stronger in the race.
“I think in general we know this track is not the best for us, but we were also trying out some downforce levels and seeing what is the best option,” he added.
“It will be tough in qualifying I think to be in P3, but in the race it looks a bit more competitive so I’m happy about that,” he said.
“But there is still a bit of work to do to make sure that we are P3.”
Alex Albon, who failed to come close to finishing in the top five in either Friday session, like Verstappen emphasized the importance of finding the right setup, and so far feels like the team hasn’t done so.
“I think there’s some data to look at on the different things we tried on mine and Max’s cars,” he explained.
“Hopefully we can find something good. It feels tricky, I think we knew it was going to be hard, the midfield has made a big step since last year so it’s a bit more tight.
“I think on a track like this honestly it’s just about looking after the tyres, it’s so thermal here. You just need a really good balance, so if you’re good in a short run you will be good in a long run and we’re just missing a little bit in both.”