Max Verstappen was encouraged by Red Bull’s start to testing but avoided drawing any conclusions about their performance based on the first two days of testing.
Verstappen said it’s “still a bit early to say” whether the team are in a stronger position. “I’ve only done the first day, but like I said, it was just a very positive day because we did a lot of laps. It has been different in the past.”
Red Bull is seeking to begin the season as stronger rivals to Mercedes than it was 12 months ago. Verstappen said they can’t compare their performance to the world champions yet.
“At the end of the day, it’s a test. The amount of times that Mercedes has topped testing in the last few years is not that high. It doesn’t really say a lot about pure performance. For us it’s just all about gathering a lot of data.”
“What was the most important was just to get a lot of laps on the boards and to understand the car, what to do with the set-up and try things on the car as well,” he added, saying the car responded well to set-up changes.
“I would say that they were all responding like we would have hoped. So I think that was very positive.”
New aerodynamic regulations for 2021 have forced teams to make changes to the rear of the cars’ floors and diffusers. The Mercedes drivers have commented that the rear-end balance of their car seems to have suffered as a result, but Verstappen reported no such problems on his car.
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“From my side it’s never good enough but it’s stable enough to feel comfortable in the car,” he said. “It was all good.
“There are, of course, always things that can be done better. So that’s what we will focus on again when I’m in the car now in the afternoon.”
The afternoon test sessions in Bahrain tend to yield quicker lap times as track temperatures are cooler. However Verstappen said the team will not use the opportunity to explore the car’s ultimate pace.
“Of course we know the offsets from during the day to the night. I think we’ve been here enough to know. But of course on my side I like to drive in the afternoon to just get a bit more representative running in.”
“It’s more important to just understand the car,” he added. “It’s not about taking the fuel out to trying to do a Q3 run or whatever. You know more or less what you want to do and what you want to get from the car.”
Although Red Bull won the final race of last season, Verstappen sees Mercedes as the team to beat going into the new championship.
“I don’t think we are the favourites if Mercedes wins that many championships in a row,” he said. “I think it’s still the same as before we came to the test.”
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