Max Verstappen feels Red Bull is on target with its 2020 Formula 1 car but can’t be certain of its place in the pecking order until the first race of the season.

The Dutchman completed the second-highest number of laps out of all the F1 drivers at the opening pre-season test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with 254 laps - only behind Lewis Hamilton’s 273 laps.

Verstappen is certain the RB16 has met expectations from his feeling in the car and its relative performance compared to his simulator stints and the engineering department’s wind tunnel development work over the winter.

“It feels good. But we’ve done already a lot of laps on the simulator as well where I got used to it. There were no real surprises when I jumped in the car,” Verstappen said.

“I think overall it feels just a bit more connected [compared to 2019]. But that was also the target. There was no real surprise there. I think towards the end of the season we were working towards that and already last year testing some ideas for this year so it was what we targeted already from the wind tunnel.”

Having initially described Red Bull’s 2020 F1 car as ‘better in every area’, Verstappen still feels the team is still looking for improvements all over the RB16 as he notches up the mileage to dig deeper into the true performance of the car.

“It can always be better, right? So in every area you try to look for things to improve. The whole year you are like that,” he said. “This week it’s not about just nailing the set up because then you keep changing the car every single run.

“Sometimes it’s better to not touch it, but just scan a bit of the car and make sure that you do the amount of laps that you are already stressing the car.”

Verstappen also confirmed he hasn’t tried out his new car in full qualifying trim yet, including the use of its full power modes from Honda’s upgraded engine.

The Japanese power unit manufacturer is aiming to avoid engine penalties this season, meaning its components must last an average of seven race weekends each, and Verstappen says he has faith in Honda having been shown its progress over the winter.

“Last year we only took engines because they had performance upgrades, and quite big ones,” he said regarding the grid penalties he was hit with last year for using additional engine parts. “So that was the reason for us to take these engines. This year we know, or we try, not to take any penalties but so far the engine is running very, very smoothly and it’s all looking good.

“They’re pushing flat out and of course you always want improvements. Definitely they have been made compared to last year as well. Also what I like is what they show you, what they project that is coming is always happening so I’m very confident that it will be the same this year again.

“Everything is heading in the right direction. But of course the other ones they are also pushing flat out so we just have to try and work harder.

“I’m not confident nor worried at the moment because I’m not too bothered about it yet. I just want to focus on our package, that’s the only thing you can control. We’ll find out in Melbourne where we are but there’s still a lot of things for us to work on because it’s never perfect, and I think it will never be perfect anyway.”

Verstappen and the rest of the F1 grid resumes pre-season testing at the Spanish GP venue on February 26-28 before heading to Australia for the opening round of the 2020 season on March 15.

 

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