Max Verstappen is expecting another close battle between Red Bull and Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix based on Friday’s free practice.
Ferrari and Red Bull have been nip and tuck at the front so far this season, with one victory apiece for Charles Leclerc and Verstappen respectively.
In the first two sessions on a revamped circuit at Albert Park for round three of the championship, it looked as though nothing had changed in the two weeks since the previous round in Saudi Arabia.
Leclerc and Verstappen, who had fought out the win in Jeddah with the Dutchman just edging it, were first and second in FP2, separated by just under a quarter of a second.
All four Ferrari and Red Bull drivers were in the top five with Carlos Sainz third and Sergio Perez fifth, Fernando Alonso splitting that duo in the Alpine.
Verstappen acknowledged Ferrari narrowly held the initiative, but believes that can change going into qualifying.
🗣 "We’ve made some good improvements today. We are heading in a good direction and we’ll try to build from there tomorrow."
Reaction from Max and Checo after Friday Practice for the #AusGP 💬🇦🇺
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 8, 2022
“I think FP1 and at the beginning of FP2 we were lacking a bit of balance,” the 24-year-old told reporters. “Then I think for the final run we changed the car around and I felt a lot happier.
“We are a tiny bit behind Ferrari, but I think it will get a little bit closer. They are quick again.
“In the long run everything looked quite stable and nice, so I am happy with that. We definitely made some good progress today.
“[The changes] were necessary because it was tricky out there, but we are in a good direction. So we just need to build from there and hopefully we can make tiny adjustments for tomorrow.”
Perez, given he was slower than Alonso, was naturally less happy than his team-mate and indicated he had a fair bit more to work on.
“It was challenging [to get the best out of the soft tyres],” said the Mexican. “We made some changes going into the afternoon session that we just have to analyse. A few things that are not working as expected. It’s been a difficult day in terms of mileage.
“I think we have very good data for tonight. In a way, yes [the car feeling better in FP1] but in a way also, no. Plenty to work on to understand the direction we have taken.
“We just need to understand where we are at the moment because we don’t understand what’s going on with the car at the moment.”