Max Verstappen: Saudi Arabian GP edge ‘definitely not like Bahrain’ for Red Bull
Max Verstappen is expecting a tougher test at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after he admitted Red Bull’s advantage is “definitely not like Bahrain” after the opening day of running in Jeddah.
Verstappen was the dominant winner of the 2023 season opener two weeks ago, leading a Red Bull one-two finish in front of team-mate Sergio Perez at the Sakhir circuit.
The nature of Verstappen’s victory fuelled concerns that Red Bull will dominate the new season having won all but five races in 2022, but chief technical officer Adrian Newey warned that Bahrain was merely “a sample of one” with many expecting the different demands in Jeddah to present a tougher challenge.
Verstappen led both practice sessions in Saudi Arabia on Friday and believes the nature of the high-speed circuit and its treatment of the tyres will bring the field closer.
Per Sky Sports F1, he said: “I think we had a positive day, but I think there’s still quite a few things we can do better.
“The long run, I think it’s also fairly close to each other but it’s more because of this managing [of] the tyres, because they don’t really let you push around here at the moment.
“So with a low-deg circuit, I think the lap times are all very close so it’s definitely not like Bahrain.”
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Perez, who claimed pole position in Jeddah last season, was third in the FP2 times and agreed that Red Bull will face more competition this weekend.
But the Mexican also warned that his team are not yet operating at their full potential after encountering a problem during Friday’s running.
“I think learning the conditions [is important]. FP1 to FP2, they always tend to change so getting a good rhythm was essential,” he said.
“We had a bit of an issue with the car mechanically, which hopefully we are able to sort out for tomorrow and that will bring us a bit more pace, hopefully, and at least we can have a better idea on where the car is.
“It was a bit inconsistent and difficult to get a proper rhythm today, but overall we seem to be strong but the competition is there as expected.”
Pressed on the nature of his mechanical issue, he said: “I cannot go in much detail but I think we are confident that we should be able to sort it out for tomorrow.”
Asked if he regarded team-mate Verstappen as his main rival this weekend, he replied: “Hopefully, yes.
“That will mean that we are in a very strong position but I do expect a few of the rival teams to step up tomorrow.”