Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has emphasised the importance of finding the right setup during Friday practice in Imola ahead of qualifying for the first sprint event of the year.
Team advisor Dr Helmut Marko recently affirmed that his team will take a “risk” this weekend with upgrades that should help them save weight, and they arrived at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Thursday with a new brake calliper, which is expected to be lighter and more efficient than the previous one.
But Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez will only have one weekend to test the new part before they jump into what could be a wet qualifying ahead of the sprint for the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, so maximising their preparation during the 60 minutes of practice beforehand will be key.
“This is obviously the first sprint race of the year, so it’s important to make the most of the first practice session so we have a good understanding of where the set-up needs to be for qualifying on Friday,” said Verstappen.
As for his misfortune thus far in 2022, Verstappen stressed the team have been flat-out attempting to mitigate the reliability failures that have seen him retire from two of the opening three rounds, leaving him 46 points behind Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Standings.
“The team trackside and back at the factory in Milton Keynes are working incredibly hard,” he explained.
“Hopefully we’ll have a straightforward weekend and that we score some good points as a team.
“For now, we will take it race by race and we’ll see where we end up.”
The reigning world champion took victory in Imola last year after a sensation start, and he twice fended off Sir Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory.
It was the first of 20 wins last season as he went on to clinch the title, and he is “looking forward” to taking to the Imola circuit once again.
Perez was on hand to salvage a second-placed finish after his team-mate’s demise in Melbourne, picking up what could be an indispensable 18 points for the team and, generally, his performance have been a step up from last year.
“It was a mixed few days in Australia for the team, but for me I managed another consistent weekend after my pole position and fourth place in Jeddah,” added the 32-year-old.
“I’m pleased with how I’ve been performing so far and getting on the podium for the first time this season in Melbourne was a step in the right direction. But I won’t stop there – I need and want to be there weekly for the team and for myself.”
Points will be handed out from first to eighth in the sprint format this season and, with the threat of rain very possible indeed, the Mexican is ready to capitalise on any opportunity that presents itself.
“We go back to the sprint format this weekend and I will be aiming to pick up the most points possible. That all comes from a good qualifying performance on Friday and I hope to hook it up again in Italy,” he said.
“It looks like it could rain this weekend, so that will play a part and I want to learn from the performance I had at Imola in the wet last season and continue to improve in all areas.”
Perez out-qualified Verstappen for the first of three occasions in his Red Bull career at last season’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and will be seeking to do so again under potentially slippery conditions.