“We need to make improvements” — Red Bull’s Helmut Marko on Ferrari F1’s Australian GP Friday pace

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Red Bull has acknowledged the need to enhance their performance following Ferrari’s strong showing during the Australian Grand Prix’s practice sessions. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets in the second free practice at Albert Park, outpacing current world championship leader Max Verstappen by 0.381 seconds.

While there’s speculation about teams employing varied engine modes, Red Bull is particularly concerned about Ferrari’s impressive long-run simulations. Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko emphasised the necessity for improvements, stating to Sky Germany, “We need to make improvements. The car is not bad, but Leclerc has set a pace that still needs a lot of fine-tuning, I think.”

Regarding the engine modes, Marko clarified that Ferrari likely utilised full power during the qualifying simulations, a strategy not employed by Red Bull. “That’s why I don’t see the three-tenths [gap] as critical. But the long run was very impressive. Our set-up is not yet right,” he added.

Verstappen faced challenges in the second practice, losing valuable track time due to repairs needed after an encounter with the turn 10 kerb in the first practice session. This incident hampered his ability to complete the planned program fully as he was stuck in the garage for the first 20 minutes.

“Unfortunately [it was] a little bit messy because of what happened in FP1,” Verstappen reflected. He acknowledged the quick response from his team, which helped him nearly complete his scheduled runs despite the setback. Speaking on his long run, the Dutchman mentioned his wish for additional laps but remained unfazed by the day’s events.

Verstappen believes that Ferrari is indeed quick but also feels that there are adjustments to be made on Red Bull’s end that could improve their situation.

“I think it was alright,” he said, indicating no major concerns but a need for fine-tuning.

On the other side, Charles Leclerc conveyed optimism about Ferrari’s performance, marking a positive start to the weekend. Despite anticipating surprises and acknowledging the need for continued hard work, Leclerc found encouragement in the day’s race simulations at the end of FP2.

“Our race run was pretty good, which is encouraging, but let’s keep working,” he said, also pointing out the challenges posed by the track and the conditions.

Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, returned to the track following surgery for appendicitis and completed his practice day without issues. Sainz expressed his relief and satisfaction with being able to participate fully in the practice sessions.

“Good, thank you. I feel okay, obviously a bit tired after a day of practice and not being 100% physically, but I felt like I had a good day,” Sainz shared, noting his anticipation for further improvements in the next couple of days.

Reflecting on Ferrari’s overall performance, Sainz acknowledged Leclerc’s speed and his own cautious approach due to his recent recovery, but he remained hopeful for a strong showing in qualifying tomorrow and hopes to fight for pole.

“I think I’ll be faster tomorrow and hopefully battle for that pole position… because I think it’s going to be tight,” Sainz added, underscoring the competitive nature of the upcoming sessions.

As the teams prepare for the qualifying rounds, the dynamic between Red Bull and Ferrari sets the stage for an intensely competitive Australian Grand Prix, with both teams eyeing improvements and adjustments to clinch the top positions.