Max Verstappen said he was “quite satisfied” with Friday’s Formula 1 practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. No wonder: the two-time world champion set the best time of the day on the Yas Marina Circuit in the Red Bull RB18 and thus maneuvered himself into the role of favorite for the final race in 2022.

    And that despite the fact that Verstappen was only active in one of the two training sessions: In the first free practice session he had given his car to Red Bull Junior Liam Lawson. But that didn’t hurt the team, says Verstappen.

    “In my opinion, Liam worked very well in the first free practice session. He was calm and consistent. Exactly what we want,” is how the Formula 1 champion describes it. He then took the car back “within a good window” and there were “no real problems” with it in his unit.

    “It was okay,” said Verstappen. “We tried a few things, and the car works pretty well in the long run as well.”

    Pérez confirms Verstappen’s assessment

    This coincides with the assessment of his teammate Sergio Pérez. He also speaks of a “good” car and says: “We look competitive over the distance, but it still needs something for the one fast lap.”

    “We still have to analyze a few areas where we can improve. But it’s important in Abu Dhabi that the pace is right for the race.”

    Leclerc doubts Verstappen best time

    But what is the Verstappen best time in Friday training worth? In any case, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc doesn’t take them too seriously because Verstappen used several sets of soft tires. But there was a reason: “Simply because the temperatures [im zweiten Training] are more representative for qualifying. That’s why I decided to do it,” explains Verstappen.

    Perhaps what happened in Brazil a week ago also played a role in the considerations. There, Red Bull had not been able to get the tires to work as desired. It promptly lost to Mercedes and Ferrari.

    Will Red Bull return to usual form in Abu Dhabi? “Normally that should be the case,” says Verstappen. “I’m just happy with how the training went from my point of view. Of course you always try to find some things. But overall it was good.”

    How Red Bull analyzed the defeat in Brazil

    That sounds very different from the conclusion of Red Bull sports director Helmut Marko after the Brazil race. In an interview with “Sky”, he complained that his drivers had “no speed at all” with the medium tires. “We weren’t competitive with these tires,” said Marko.

    On the one hand, that was due to the ambient temperatures, on the other hand, the Red Bull RB18 “overwhelmed the tires,” says Marko. “That hasn’t happened to us this year, but to many others. The tire works, it doesn’t work.” And in Brazil, Red Bull couldn’t explain what went wrong with tire management.

    Verstappen describes it like this: “As soon as I even tried to put some pressure on, we didn’t have the pace anymore. We also tried a few things, but it never seemed to do anything for the overall performance.”

    What also inhibited Red Bull is the consequence of the sprint format: the cars can no longer be changed significantly after qualifying on Friday evening. “So the set-up is already in place early this weekend,” says team manager Christian Horner. “But the main problem was that we just didn’t have the pace.” So far, things have been different in Abu Dhabi.