The first day of free practice at Suzuka ended with the return of Max Verstappen to the top of the timesheets, as has become tradition. Red Bull immediately wanted to put aside the Singapore weekend, where particular technical situations put the RB19 in crisis, arriving in Japan with a car that gave the drivers a good feeling despite the particular track conditions.
In fact, since the first free practices, most of the drivers reported conditions of little grip, also noting excessive sliding of the rear. There are those who suffered more from the wear of the rear, a bit surprisingly given the characteristics of the track, and those who, as per tradition in Suzuka, suffered from the front, but what everyone agrees on is that in this on the first day there was a rather marked tire degradation.
Net of these elements, Red Bull still seems satisfied with the results achieved, in particular Max Verstappen, first at the end of Friday’s tests. In the morning the Dutchman also tested the floor that had been brought to Singapore a week ago, making a direct comparison with his teammate, who instead ran with the old specification in FP1. The new fund was then also confirmed on the Mexican’s car during the afternoon session.
The tests carried out by Verstappen in FP1
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
“Today went very well. Yes, from the first lap the car performed very well again, overall we had a good day, short run, long run. We have seen a lot of degradation, it will be difficult for the tires in the race, but I think for now it is a good start to the weekend”, explained Verstappen at the end of the day during interviews. The Red Bull driver confirmed himself as the fastest overall in the first sector, edging out Lando Norris by more than two and a half tenths, while the Ferraris were a good four tenths behind.
Given the high degradation seen today, many drivers underlined the importance of gaining a good position in qualifying and the Dutchman believes he has the tools to aim for pole, especially with a good job during the night to fix some details: “I think that the group behind me is compact with Ferrari, McLaren, they are close, we’ll see. But at the end of the day, we focus on ourselves, optimizing our performances and I am sure that if we succeed we can fight for pole.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
His teammate, Sergio Perez, is also on the same wavelength. In the morning, perhaps also caught off guard by the poor grip offered by the track, the Mexican had a few more problems in terms of set-up, only to find more confidence in the afternoon. Despite a disappointing time on the soft, also given some mistakes on the flying lap, Perez believes he has understood which direction to take with the set-up in view of qualifying and the race.
“It was a very interesting day. This morning we had an unbalanced balance, but we managed to understand well the direction we need to take. Things look a lot better than last weekend, which is good. I hope I can qualify well tomorrow, because the degradation seems quite high, especially with the high temperatures we expect. Yes, I think we will be strong tomorrow and also on Sunday,” explained the Red Bull standard bearer.