Max Verstappen expects his best chance of beating Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix to again be in the race rather than qualifying.
The Dutchman inflicted a first defeat on the World Champions in 2020 when he won last weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, utilising an inspired strategy and impressive race pace in his Red Bull.
On that occasion, Verstappen had qualified in P4 and after Friday’s free practice sessions in Barcelona he dismissed his chances of a front-row start.
Verstappen was third fastest in both FP1 and FP2, more than three-quarters of a second off the quickest time in each session, and so the form book suggests he looks set for P3 when qualifying takes place on Saturday.
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“I think the car was performing quite okay today,” said Verstappen – who sits second in the World Championship standings, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton – on Sky Sports.
“Over one lap we are clearly lacking pace to Mercedes but overall I think it was a positive day. On the long runs the car felt pretty nice to drive, so that’s quite important.”
Asked if he can beat the Mercedes duo again, he replied: “In qualifying I don’t think we can, they are really fast.
“But who knows in the race? I felt great in the car today – let’s see on Sunday if it’s going to be the same.”
Alex Albon, Verstappen’s team-mate at Red Bull, was again down in the midfield and far from completely happy with what he had got out of the two free practice sessions.
The London-born Thai driver was P8 in the morning stint, 1.821sec off the quickest time, set by Valtteri Bottas, and P13 in the afternoon, 1.608sec behind fastest man Lewis Hamilton.
“We tried a few things but it didn’t go in the direction we wanted,” said Albon, who fought his way up through the field to finish a respectable P5 at Silverstone last week.
“I felt pretty comfortable with the car in FP1 and I think we found a good direction in that session.
“But that’s what Fridays are for, seeing what works and what doesn’t. We’ll have a look at the data this evening to see how we can maximise our performance tomorrow.”
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