Max Verstappen opens up on issues ahead of 2023 Australian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen wasn't best pleased with his first two practice sessions ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, despite finishing fastest in FP1.

Two-time World Champion Max Verstappen conceded to having struggled to get to grips with his RB-19 in the first two practice sessions ahead of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen finished fastest in a heavily disturbed FP1 which was eventually red-flagged due to GPS issues for every team, but failed to pick up the pace when returning for FP2 and sat third-fastest behind Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc, in a rain-affected session.

Despite Red Bull dominating proceedings so far in 2023, it hasn’t been without struggle. Verstappen has continually complained of gearbox and driveshaft issues in his RB19 challenger and failed to close the gap to eventual race winner and teammate Sergio Perez at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The pair go into the weekend with one win each under their belt for the season so far, with many expecting the race to again be a battle of the two Red Bull cars at the front of the grid.

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Dissecting his first two practice sessions on his website, Verstappen said the car ‘felt good’ but explained where he struggled.

“We never really got into a window where I felt like I had full control of the tyres. We’ll have to look at that tonight, but I’m sure it will be fine,” he said.

He cited the asphalt on the track around Albert Park and the disruptions throughout FP1 as reasons why he failed to ‘get into a good rhythm’, but added: “[On Saturday] it will probably be dry, so the focus is on that, and on a dry track it’s hard enough.”

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The Dutchman did well to recover to a P2 finish in Jeddah, having started the race in 15th and arriving for the race weekend a day late due to struggling with illness.

He’s since shaken off that illness, though, and finished Friday with the fastest lap time on the grid. He punched in a 1:18.790 to finish some four-tenths quicker than seven-time champions Lewis Hamilton in FP1, who surprisingly managed to split the two Red Bulls despite Mercedes still struggling themselves.

Provided no gearbox or driveshaft issues rear their head, Verstappen is in a strong position to win the Australian Grand Prix for the first time in his career, having had to watch on from the paddock as Charles Leclerc eased to victory around Melbourne in 2022.