Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Verstappen still seeking rhythm in new Red Bull after “really bad” start to practice

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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World champion Max Verstappen says he needs to find his “rhythm” with his new Red Bull car ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen ended the opening practice session third-fastest behind team mate Sergio Perez and the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso. In the evening session he was second-quickest behind Alonso.

Despite being in the top three in both sessions, Verstappen said he struggled to begin with. “A difficult start of the day,” he admitted. “I mean, FP1 was really bad.

“I just couldn’t get a balance, which was a bit odd because in testing whatever we tried, some things were maybe not amazing, but not that far out. So a few things to understand.

“Even the start of FP2 was a bit difficult, but then I think for the final run, even though not really having a good reference in confidence up until then in the car, the lap was not too bad in the short run and also the car felt a bit more connected.”

Verstappen said his car felt better in his race simulation run at the end of practice. “I think the long run, with all the changes we made, I was quite surprised that it was the pace we had. Overall, the car was not too bad in the long run.

Alexander Albon, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix practice in pictures
“I just need to find my rhythm again with the car and then just the way the car’s driving from short run to long run.”

While Aston Martin raised eyebrows by topping the second session, Verstappen did not seem at all surprised to find Alonso as their closest rivals on Friday.

“They’re quick, but you could see that already in testing that they were very competitive,” he said. “So they had a great day.

“For us, it’s still a bit of work to do. We know that we have a very competitive car, it’s just now putting all the pieces together.”

Verstappen is confident that Red Bull will be strong over the rest of the weekend if they can tune the car to his liking ahead of qualifying tomorrow.

“If I feel happy in the car again and I can push like I want to push with the car on one lap, then for sure we are very fast. But it’s also of course making sure that the car doesn’t fall out of the window for the long run.”

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    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
    Claire Cottingham
    Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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