Max Verstappen says it was a shame that Friday’s practice was all about preparing tyres and finding their optimum working temperature at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, as he really enjoys driving around the Portimão track.
The Red Bull Racing driver was second fastest in each of the two practice sessions on Friday, with the Dutchman ending behind Valtteri Bottas in the morning and Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon.
Verstappen is expecting another tight battle with the two Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers in Qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix, but he knows Red Bull will have to be on the top of their game if they are to secure pole position on Saturday.
“It feels great to be back on track in Portimão, the circuit is amazing, but the conditions are very similar to last year and the tarmac is super slippery,” said Verstappen. “The tyres have of course changed and we all lost a bit of grip from the cars compared to last year.
“It’s very tricky out there and not easy to switch the tyres on which is a shame because it seems to be all about tyre preparation and temperature. It’s the same situation for everyone so we just need to make sure we are on top of the car so we can make the best out of it.
“It seems tight with Mercedes this weekend again and the car felt alright but we still have some work to do ahead of tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
“Hopefully we will be in the mix to fight for pole tomorrow” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez hopes to be involved in the fight for pole position on Saturday, even though the Mexican was behind Verstappen in both Friday sessions.
Pérez finished third fastest in the quicker morning session, 0.173 seconds behind his Dutch team-mate, but he was only tenth in the afternoon, over half a second back as he struggled to find lap time on the soft compound.
The Mexican is hopeful the team can solve the issues when it came to grip levels on the softer compound ahead of Qualifying so he can fight for his first career pole position on Saturday afternoon.
“Today we had very similar track surface conditions to last year with limited grip on the new tarmac so it’s really hard to get the tyres to work,” said Pérez. “It’s not easy so the main focus is to understand what’s going on with the tyres.
“I think the pace on the mediums was good but when we went on to the soft compound we didn’t find any lap time so we’ll need to look into that and hopefully sort it out in time for qualifying.
“It’s hard to compare with the last round in Imola as it’s a very different track here and everywhere just has less grip overall due to the tarmac but I think we have pretty good pace in the car so hopefully we will be in the mix to fight for pole tomorrow.”