Verstappen: Mercedes F1 has “definitely” improved, expects “tight” fight

Max Verstappen says Mercedes has “definitely” improved relative to last weekend after it led 1-2 in second Formula 1 practice at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.

Lewis Hamilton topped the afternoon session ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen just behind in third place.

Verstappen enjoyed one of the most dominant weekends of his F1 career to date last time out in the first race at the Red Bull Ring, winning by over 35 seconds.

Assessing his main rival’s performance on Friday, Verstappen is convinced Mercedes has taken a step forward in performance.

“I think it will be tight,” Verstappen said. “They definitely have improved a bit. So yeah, we’ll see tomorrow in qualifying, but of course the most important thing is with these softer compounds to make them last in the race.

“So that’s also going to be a challenge.”

Verstappen felt Mercedes had the advantage on the softer tyre compound, with Pirelli bringing the C5 - the softest in its range - to this weekend’s event.

The Dutchman was confident with how his Red Bull handled on the mediums and in race trim.

“They seem quite quick on that soft compound,” Verstappen added. “I think from our side, it wasn’t perfect on that run. But nevertheless, I felt good in the car, everything felt quite good.

“There are no real problems, just need to make sure that we have a bit more pace on the soft because I think on the medium, we look good, and also in the long runs, we look decent. At the end of the day, that’s the most important.”

Verstappen holds an 18-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers' championship, while Red Bull is 40 points clear of Mercedes in the constructors'.

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