Verstappen hails ‘positive start’ but won’t talk about pace

Max Verstappen set the pace in the opening day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, but the Red Bull charger preferred to focus on his car’s behaviour rather than on its relative performance.

Save for a harmless spin, Verstappen enjoyed a near perfect first day at Sakhir, relentlessly running through the team’s workload and piling on a healthy 139 laps, the most of any driver on Friday.

However, the Dutchman – who will be supersede by Sergio Perez on Saturday – had to compose with gusty and sandy conditions in the first part of the afternoon, when grip was at a premium, before the track and the elements improved.

“We had a very positive day and managed a lot of laps even though the track conditions were quite difficult,” commented Verstappen.

“It was very warm with a lot of wind and we know the degradation is always high around here so I’m very happy with how it went.

“We aimed for this number of laps and when you can complete a full program like this the Team can also be pleased with the information we have.”

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Verstappen headed McLaren’s Lando Norris by 0.215s, but insisted there was little point in assessing the outright performance of Red Bull’s new RB16B.

“We don’t need to talk about pace yet and it isn’t really a discussion until we get to Q3 at the first race weekend – it’s only then you see the real pace in all the cars,” he said.

“The main thing is that the car felt nice to drive, so it’s a positive start.”

Red Bull’s head of engineering Guillaume Rocquelin was equally satisfied with how the day had unfolded and agreed that performance was a secondary concern.

“Lap time is not what it’s about at this stage and I don’t think Max will be getting too pumped up about being at the top of the timesheet on day one,” said the Frenchman.

“What’s more important is that we were able to follow the plan and do the laps. For Sergio tomorrow, the conditions should hopefully be a little better.

“It’s not supposed to be quite as hazy, but the wind is likely to still be quite strong. The plan will be pretty much the same for Checo, so fingers crossed we’re looking forward to another good day.”

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