Max Verstappen says the Virtual Safety Car called in FP2 hurt his short-run practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, but the Red Bull ace still enjoyed ‘one of the best Fridays’ of his season.
Several drivers were caught out by the VSC period, which came after Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez stopped his car on the approach to the Degner corners.
Verstappen had just left the Red Bull garage for his first run on softs when the session was neutralised. The Dutchman eventually finished fourth and nearly half a second down on third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.
“We were trying to push on our timed lap and the Virtual Safety Car came out so we had to box and then go out again on used tyres which were very cold,” Verstappen said about the gap to the lead Ferrari.
“It ruined our short run a bit, so the pace in the short run didn’t look too good but it was just because we were already preparing our fast lap and then we had to come in again so the tyres cool down. That’s not ideal, but I think from the long run we had a really good balance.”
One week after Red Bull showed competitive pace in Malaysia and recorded a stunning 1-2 finish, Verstappen is confident his team can lead the fight to Mercedes once again in Japan.
“I think it’s one of the best Fridays so far,” the 19-year-old added. “Everything seemed to work really well, the car handling is good, our long-run pace was good. I think we are quite happy but of course we still have work to do.
I think it was a bit similar to Malaysia so you can’t complain. Of course we still want to improve but so far I have quite a good feeling with the car.”