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F1 Malaysian GP: Birthday boy Verstappen encouraged by long run pace

Max Verstappen believes Red Bull stands a chance against Ferrari and Mercedes in terms of long run pace, even if single lap form is lacking.
RESULTS: Malaysian Grand Prix – Free Practice Results (2)

Max Verstappen says that he is confident in Red Bull's long run pace in free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix and that now the focus now needs to shift to getting the most from the package over a single lap.

The teenager, who celebrates his 19th birthday today, finished the first and second free practice sessions in seventh and fifth place respectively, just over a second adrift of pace setter Lewis Hamilton.

Whilst a top five outcome is considered a positive start for Red Bull given the power dependent straights which expose the shortcomings in the relatively underpowered Renault engine, the team remains adrift of main rivals Ferrari.

“I think we can improve a little bit there,” Verstappen said on Red Bull's one lap pace. “We didn't get the tyres to work properly on the soft, but we have to look into the data, in general it was quite a positive day especially in the long runs it looks very strong. I think in the end that's also very important, so yeah, positive day.”

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A keen test for Red Bull 18 months on from F1's last visit to Sepang, when both of its drivers finished a lap down on the leaders, race simulations reveal a relative parity between the leading three teams.

Indeed, Rosberg, Vettel and Verstappen all completed long runs on the medium tyre, posting consistent lap times in the low to mid 1min 40s.

While the Ferrari demonstrated an edge over both the Mercedes and Red Bull in long run pace, the Mercedes remain outright leaders in short runs.

For the time being, Verstappen downplayed the close competitiveness between the three teams, saying that the results are only the way they are “for the moment”.

“We have to wait and see tomorrow or race day,” he continued. “But for the moment we can be happy about the long runs, we need to work a bit in the short runs but I'm quite confident we can find some lap time.”

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