Verstappen offers glimmer of hope to F1 rivals

Max Verstappen was quickest in both practice sessions ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP but is there is a glimmer of hope for his rivals?

Max Verstappen was quickest in both practice sessions ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP but is there a glimmer of hope for his rivals?

Max Verstappen offered a glimmer of hope to his F1 rivals despite dominating Friday practice ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Despite being laid low with a stomach bug this week and skipping his media duties on Thursday at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the Red Bull driver seemed unaffected.

Verstappen was almost half-a-second faster than team-mate Sergio Perez at the end of the first hour-long session, with the Dutchman then two-tenths faster than Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in the more representative race conditions of FP2.

At this stage, back-to-back victories to open the season appear on the cards yet the two-time F1 champion does not feel he will have it all his own way, as was the case in the curtain-raising race in Bahrain.

“We had a positive day but I think there’s still quite a few things I think we can do better,” said Verstappen, who finished the day with a leading time of 1:29.603s.

“On the long run, we all seemed fairly close to each other, but it’s more because of managing the tyres. They don’t really let you push around here at the moment.

“With a low-deg circuit, then I think the lap times are all very close. So it’s definitely not like Bahrain.”

Perez hit with mechanical problem

Perez had to settle for third quickest in the second session, 0.299s behind Verstappen, and that after sustaining a problem with his RB19.

“We had a bit of an issue with the car mechanically, which hopefully we are able to sort out for tomorrow, and that will bring us a bit more pace,” said Perez.

“At least then we can have a better idea of where the car is. There was a bit of inconsistency and it was difficult to get a proper run today, but overall, we seem to be strong.”

Perez, who declined to offer detail on the exact nature of the problem, feels like Verstappen that other teams will make progress ahead of qualifying.

Suggested to Perez that Verstappen would be his biggest rival this weekend, he replied: “Hopefully, yes.

“That will mean that we are in a very strong position, but I do expect a few of their rival teams to step up tomorrow.”

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