Max Verstappen declared himself happy with the balance of his Red Bull after the first day of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The world champions endured a difficult race in Singapore a week ago, where they failed to win for the first time this year. But they expected the Suzuka would suit the RB19 better and Verstappen said the car “felt really good today from lap one.”
“The car was enjoyable to drive again,” said Verstappen. “It seems like we had a strong day. On short runs, long runs.
“There’s a lot of degradation on this track so we’ll be quite tough on tyres in the race. But so far I think we have a good start to the weekend.”
Verstappen led both practice sessions and ended the day 0.32 seconds ahead of his closet rival. The same gap covered the next four drivers from three teams.
“It looks like it’s all a bit tight behind me, between Ferrari, McLaren are close,” said Verstappen. “So we’ll have a look but at the end of the day we just focus on ourselves and try to optimise our performance and then if we do that and I’m confident that we’ll fight for pole.”
Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez was also encouraged by the team’s showing on Friday. “I do believe that we’re going to be strong tomorrow and also on Sunday,” he said.
Perez ended second practice over a second behind Verstappen, which left him in ninth place, but he is confident he can find more performance from the car.
“I think this morning we were a bit off-balance on our side,” said Perez. “I think we have some pretty good understanding of the direction we need to take.
“Certainly things are looking a lot better than they did last weekend, which is positive. I look forward to qualifying well tomorrow because degradation seems to be quite high around this place, especially with the hot temperatures we are expecting.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and