Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2023

Verstappen unsure over Red Bull’s race pace as practice was “all bad”

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen says he has “no clue” how his Red Bull is likely to run in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he did no meaningful long runs in practice.

The Red Bull driver secured pole position for the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi in qualifying by a tenth of a second from Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was not quickest in either of the two practice sessions he participated in before qualifying and complained of balance troubles with his RB19 in both sessions. However he was happy with the set-up changes Red Bull had made ahead of qualifying.

“What a turnaround, to be honest, because in practice it was not looking that good,” he admitted. “I was struggling a lot with the balance. Luckily I think we made the right changes on the car for qualifying because I think from lap one it all just felt a lot more connected.

“Around here it’s a lot about tyres and how they behave. If you have tiny slides here and there they overheat. So in qualifying it definitely felt all a bit better.”

Verstappen missed the opening practice session along with team mate Sergio Perez to allow Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar to fulfil the team’s junior driver allocation under the regulations. Asked whether track evolution might have contributed to his improved confidence, Verstappen said his problems were more fundamental.

“Yesterday, in FP2, and today, in the [afternoon], FP3 – it was all bad,” he said. “I don’t really think it had anything to do with that.

“Of course the track grips up a bit, but I think the issues I had were more severe than a little bit more rubber here and there.”

Heading into the final race of the season, Verstappen insists he is not sure how strong Red Bull’s race pace will be due to the lack of long runs he has been able to cover in practice.

“I have no clue how the car will behave in the race,” he said. “I have not really done any long running, so I guess we’ll find out throughout the race.

“So far, most of the races, of course, we have been quite strong. Tomorrow I just have to ease myself into it.”

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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...

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