Max Verstappen says that a strong start to 2021 for Red Bull in pre-season testing doesn’t mean that the team has now emerged as favourites to win this year’s championship.
Verstappen was fastest on the first of three track days in Bahrain, with new team mate Sergio Perez also topping the midday timesheets on day three.
The pair ran almost a hundred laps more than Mercedes during the first two days. Mercedes had hit a series of setbacks which compromised their programme, although Valtteri Bottas did end up being quickest of anyone on Saturday.
Even so, Verstappen resisted the idea that it meant Red Bull now had the upper hand heading into the first race of the season in two weeks’ time.
- Read also: Perez takes top spot for Red Bull on Sunday morning
“I don’t think we are the favourites,” he insisted. “The amount of times that Mercedes has topped the testing in the last few years is not that high, so it doesn’t really say a lot about pure performance.
“If Mercedes wins that many championships in a row, I think it’s still the same as before we came to the test,” he said. “So, yeah, not much more to add.
“It’s still a bit early to say,” he continued, reflecting back on his initial run in the RB16B on Friday. “Nobody really has shown anything.
“At the end of the day, it’s a test,” he pointed out. “It was just a very positive day because we did a lot of laps. That’s been different in the past.
“For us it’s just all about gathering a lot of data,” he added. “The engineers and everybody back at the factory, they want a lot of data, and afterwards we’ll find out in Q3 on the first race weekend where we are.
“The most important thing was just to get a lot of laps on the board and understand the car, what you want to do with the set-up, and try things on the car as well.”
“They were all responding like we would have hoped so I think that was very positive,” he added of the team’s first track experience with a new rear end design to make it less tricky to drive.
“From my side I mean it’s never good enough, but it was stable enough to feel comfortable in the car,” he reported. “It was all good.
“Of course there are things that can be done better, so it’s what we’ll focus on when I’m in the car in the afternoon [on Sunday].”
However don’t be surprised if Verstappen doesn’t finish the day at the top of the times, even though track temperatures tend to be at their best after the early afternoon break and before sunset.
“Of course we know the offsets from during the day to the night,” he said. “But on my side I like to drive in the afternoon to just get a bit more representative running in.
“It’s not about taking the fuel out and trying to do a Q3 run or whatever,” he said. “You know more or less what you want to do and what you want to get from the car that’s the most important.”
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