Max Verstappen has described Red Bull’s long runs in Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix as “very strong”, but admits one-lap pace can be improved.
While Verstappen and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo slotted behind the two Mercedes and Ferraris across FP1 and FP2, the Dutchman, who is celebrating his 19th birthday on this date, looked quite competitive during his race simulation in the afternoon.
“I think both sessions were not bad,” Verstappen said. “The first one you just build up [the speed], especially with the new tarmac you have to get to grips with the car.
“I think it was a positive day. Our short runs could be a bit better but I think long runs, they look very strong.”
While Mercedes and Ferrari seemed to eke more laps than Red Bull out of their soft tyres, Verstappen does not think his team is lagging behind its rivals in that field.
“I think the pace on the soft was pretty good. I felt there was some lap time in it. I was happy, especially in the long run.
“I could do what I wanted to with the car, throw it in the corners like I wanted to and still the pace was there. That’s always positive.”
Pirelli has brought its hard, medium, and soft tyre compounds to the resurfaced Sepang International Circuit, while also making two sets of hard tyres mandatory for the race, although only one of those sets must be used.
Verstappen and Ricciardo only have six sets of the softest compound available to them, whereas Mercedes and Ferrari drivers have seven each.