It was a positive Friday for Red Bull and all Honda machinery, as championship leader Max Verstappen topped the first F1 free practice session ever held at Losail, and ended the second in P3, just behind his former teammate Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri.
The Dutch driver gave his first impressions of the new track, highlighting the importance of having a session at night time to test out the future race conditions:
"It was the first time [we ran] in the evening, so it was important to understand how the car would react," Verstappen said, adding that he noticed a significant difference between the different tyre compounds.
"Quite a bit of the change between the medium and the soft tyre I think for me, that’s why on the soft tyre it wasn’t, let’s say, amazing, but again, you know it’s our first time here, so a lot of things to understand."
All things considered, the Red Bull driver has a positive opinion of the new venue: "You need to learn the track a bit, but it’s been a lot of fun to drive to be honest. I think it’s a really cool track."
His teammate Sergio Perez, the only driver with Nikita Mazepin to have already competed at the track, even winning here during the 2009 Asian GP2 season, didn't perform as well as he could, ending both practice sessions in P8.
The Mexican driver, with three podiums to his name in the last four races, hopes that him and his team will sort out the issues found today in time for qualis, as tomorrow will be tight:
"I think we've got some work to do. I’m not entirely happy with the balance, so we’ve got some work to do to sort that out hopefully for tomorrow."
Just like his teammate, he struggled more with the soft tyres rather than on mediums:
"We had a good start but obviously we’ve done some changes especially going onto the soft tyre that we need to review. And hopefully we can sort it out."
"Margins are very close, everything is really close around the teams, so hopefully we can be strong come quali," Perez concluded.