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Max Verstappen “Not Worried About the Gap to P1” in Bahrain

His main reason for optimism is that Red Bull did not run their power unit to as high a level of performance as some of their rivals. ...

Speculation was everywhere when Mercedes topped the timing sheets during free practice two at Bahrain. Defending World Champion, Max Verstappen, grabbed P6 but he isn’t worried about that because he believes Red Bull’s main rivals had their engines turned up while they didn’t.

After the first day of practice, Verstappen said he wasn’t concerned about his new concept RB20’s performance.

“I think it was not too bad,” Verstappen told the official F1 channel. “I think it’s very close. Maybe some people around us already turned up the engine a bit, in terms of top speed. But we just focused on ourselves.

“I think today, there were a few little balance issues from front to rear, but nothing big. It’s just about trying to find that sweet spot. Especially around here, with the rough Tarmac, once you get it into that sweet spot you just pick up time. That’s what we’ll try to focus on a little bit more for tomorrow.”

His main reason for optimism is that Red Bull did not run their power unit to as high a level of performance as some of their rivals. Which also suggests Red Bull may be “sandbagging,” the process by which a team hide their true potential until the race or qualifying.

“I don’t say everyone around us did that, but a few did,” he explained. “So I’m not too worried about the gap to P1, for example.

“But it’s going to be very close in qualifying. So that’s, I think, going to be very nice. And then the long run, I was a bit happier about that. But again, also there are few little things that we can do better.”

The RB20 isn’t perfect, or more likely, it isn’t perfect yet. Verstappen complained about stiff gearshifts and claims that he’s still finding the right balance.

“It’s not too far away, it’s just trying to get into it and feel a little bit happier with the car,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, you also just want to focus a bit on the long runs, because that’s where the car really needs to work. Of course, qualifying is important, but we need to make sure that the car is in good shape for the race.”

If Verstappen turns out to be right, then non-Red Bull fans will have something to be worried about. Few want to see another season of Verstappen domination but considering the advantage the team have carried from last year, it is unlikely they won’t be in a similar position this year. That is, unless their new concept isn’t as effective as suggested in the simulations, though undoubtedly Red Bull’s long-run pace is one of the strongest on the grid, creating a tough challenge for their rivals.

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