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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403220068 // Usage for editorial use only //

Verstappen: We just need to fine-tune a little bit the car

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403220068 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen is confident that a little fine-tuning will get his Red Bull RB20 in the sweet spot ahead of Saturday’s 2024 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying and for the main event on Sunday.

This after the triple Formula 1 World Champion ended day one of practice in second quickest. Only the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was faster than Verstappen in FP2 at a full to capacity Albert Park today.

Leclerc ended four-tenths of a second up on the Verstappen one when the flag waved to end proceedings on day one. In the other Red Bull, Sergio Perez was only good for P8 at the end of the first day of track action Down Under.

Reflecting on his Friday, Verstappen said: “Unfortunately a little bit messy because of what happened in FP1. I went wide, damaged the floor and also the chassis. It took a little bit longer to fix that unfortunately so I lost about 20 minutes.

“I do think the turnaround was very quick, what we did as a team, so I more or less completed the programme still. Long run I would have liked maybe a few more laps but with missing 20 minutes, that’s how it goes.

“I think it was alright. I think Ferrari is quick but I think from our side, there are also a few more things that we can fine-tune. So nothing crazy, nothing worrying, I think we just need to fine-tune a little bit the car,” ventured Verstappen, who has yet to be beaten this year in Qualy or Race.

Perez: I think we are in a good place this season with the car

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Fans hold up cardboard cutouts o Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing on the Melbourne Walk prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403220040 // Usage for editorial use only //

As has become the norm at Red Bull, Sergio Perez was slower out of the blocks than his teammate. As a result, the Mexican veteran was only good for P8, eight-tenths down on the P1 time, and half a second shy of Max.

“It was a tricky Friday in general and overall,” Perez said in the RBR Friday report. “I think we have some work to do overnight. Melbourne is also quite difficult when you move to the afternoon because the visibility is super poor with the low sun in your face.

“I think we are in a good place this season with the car though and we should be looking strong for Satruday. We need to put it all together because it will be important to qualify high up. Degradation wise it looks quite high on the long runs; we need to look at that and it will be interesting to see what the best strategy will be this weekend.

“I think Ferrari look strong, this circuit seems to be better for them, they have been competitive in the long runs. They will be a challenge to beat this weekend, generally, they are quite fast around here so it could be interesting to see how we match up,” ventured Perez.

Red Bull have dominated the first two races of 20024, perhaps even more ominously than they did last year. However, the higher downforce nature of Albert Park – in contrast to the medium downforce Bahrain International Circuit (Round 1) and the fast Jeddah Corniche Circuit  (Round 2) – may test the RB20 more severely than in the past two races.

Nevertheless, the pecking order indicates that another one-two should be expected from Red Bell, who have made it a habit of keeping their powder dry until it matters on Saturdays and then again on Sundays. Expect a similar modus operandi from the World Champs in Melbourne over the next couple of days.

Big Question: Could the Albert Park high-downforce track be the biggest test for the Red Bull RB20 so far?