Verstappen Predicts 'Very Tight Qualifying' But Remains Confident In Red Bull's Race Pace

Friday, 08 March 2024 at 08:30
verstappen max redbull rbcp118
After the second practice session on Thursday ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen suggested he expects very tight qualifying.
While we know that the timing sheets from practice sessions don't tell the whole story because every team runs different fuel loads and engine modes, they can generally show which teams are doing well.
As expected, Max Verstappen looked pretty fast throughout both practice sessions at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. The triple World Champion scored P1 in FP1 and P3 in FP2.
While he was able to put in some very decent laps, the 26-year-old was closely matched by drivers from four different teams. Consequently, he said he expects a very close qualifying.

"It will be again very, very tight. I think that is probably where other people are probably a bit better than us, over one lap. Our car probably comes a bit more alive on the long run."

Quite interestingly, the only driver who outperformed the Dutchman during the first two practice sessions was Fernando Alonso, who scored a P2 in the first session and a P1 in the second one.
In Bahrain, Aston Martin was miles off Red Bull's pace in the race as the Spanish Matador crossed the finish line 74.887 seconds behind Verstappen. But in qualifying, the gap was much smaller, and the same kind of trend is expected in Jeddah.
Verstappen also suggested that "some teams" might already be using more powerful engine modes, which isn't something that Red Bull would be doing in FP1 and FP2 sessions. He added:

"I think overall we learned a lot. Of course there’s always things you look at to do better over one-lap performance, but I think also some teams already, they used a little bit more power, like they did in Bahrain, so we’ll take that also into consideration. But when we went into the long runs, it looks again quite nice, so quite happy with that."