Max Verstappen “not too worried” by gap to Mercedes after ominous engine mode hint

Red Bull weren't on top in practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen isn't too worried.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1,…

Max Verstappen isn’t concerned by Red Bull’s deficit to Mercedes over one lap after suggesting that some F1 teams had “turned up the engine” in practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion was sixth fastest in second practice at the Bahrain International Circuit, just under 0.5s off Lewis Hamilton, who set the pace in the improved Mercedes W15.

While Verstappen didn’t show Red Bull’s true potential over one lap, he was clearly the driver to beat during the race simulations.

Assessing Red Bull’s turn of pace in Bahrain, Verstappen hinted that their lack of performance relative to Mercedes was down to difference in engine modes.

“I think it was not too bad,” he said. “It’s just that it’s very close. Maybe some people around us already turned up the engine a bit in terms of top speed.

“We just focus on ourselves and I think from 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 right tarmac.

“Once you get into that sweet spot you just pick up time. That’s what we will try to focus on tomorrow.”

When pressed on the engine mode point, he explained: “I wouldn’t say everyone around us did that but a few did. I am not too worried about the gap to P1 for example but it’s going to be very close in qualifying so that’s going to be very nice.

“The long run - I was a bit happier about that but again there’s a few little things that we can do better.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20 and Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red…

Red Bull having a better car for the race isn’t too surprising given their advantage over the rest of the field tended to be greater on a Sunday in 2023.

“It’s not too far away,” he added. “It’s trying to get into it. I feel a little bit happier with the car but at the end of the day you just want to focus on the long run as that’s when the car really needs to work.

“Of course, qualifying is important but we need to make sure the car is in good shape.”

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