Max Verstappen plays down Red Bull concerns with Lewis Hamilton quicker at Hungary GP
F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Max Verstappen is confident that Red Bull can fix the issues that plagued Friday’s second practice session and bring the fight to Lewis Hamilton in qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Dutchman, who currently leads his Mercedes rival in the Drivers’ Championship by eight points, is looking to shelve the disappointment of their controversial high-speed crash at Silverstone earlier this month and return to winning ways in Budapest this weekend.
Verstappen made a promising start by setting the fastest lap in FP1 ahead of Valtteri Bottas, with Hamilton a tenth off his team-mate in third.
But the Red Bull man was unable to keep up with his Mercedes counterparts in FP2 and was heard complaining of understeer over his team radio.
Bottas finished the session with a lead of nearly three-tenths over Verstappen, who himself was 0.271 seconds adrift of Hamilton.
The gap between Mercedes and Red Bull came as something of a surprise, with the latter having enjoyed a performance advantage over their rivals since the beginning of the season.
When quizzed on his lack of pace in FP2, which saw track temperatures peak at 62 degrees Celsius, Verstappen told reporters that plenty of work can still be done to improve ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.
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However, despite the 23-year-old’s frustration with the car, he placed some of the blame on the sizzling heat and insisted that any changes will be minimal.
“I mean it’s nothing too big to overcome,” said Verstappen.
“Just in general it’s not been an easy day with track temperatures like this, so we’ll analyse everything.
“[There were] a few adjustments we were trying from FP1 to FP2, so we just need to look into which things worked, which things didn’t.
“[We still need to improve] especially over one lap and also long run, so a lot of things to look into, but nothing shocking.”
Verstappen was not the only Red Bull driver to struggle during Friday’s practice sessions, with Sergio Perez also off the pace.
The 31-year-old was nearly a second adrift of his team-mate in FP1 and over eight-tenths slower than Bottas in FP2 to come home in fifth and ninth respectively.
Perez revealed after the session that he was not entirely at home behind the wheel, but stressed that he remains confident ahead of qualifying and Sunday’s race.
“I’m not fully comfortable with the car,” admitted the Mexican.
“We’ve made good steps from not expecting these kind of conditions, so just reading conditions better and getting a better lap.
“Traffic was critical on my lap as well, so I think there’s plenty to play for tomorrow still. I’m looking forward to it.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea of which steps we have to take, so I’m optimistic for the rest of the weekend.”
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