Verstappen expects 'competitive' Red Bull as Perez hopes for big gains at French GP

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Max Verstappen does believe Red Bull can be "competitive" against Mercedes after leading Friday practice at the French Grand Prix.

Despite finishing second in 2018, Circuit Paul Ricard hasn't been a great track for the Dutchman or his team, while Mercedes have dominated the first two races at the venue.

In fact, Verstappen's P1 in FP2 was the first time someone other than Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had led a session at Le Castellet since its return three years ago.

But as for whether the very slim advantage could be maintained for the rest of the weekend, Max was keeping his cards close to his chest.

"Difficult to say but today was good," he said.

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"You never know what people will find overnight but also, the long runs seemed quite decent. For sure, it will be very tight and will not be easy."

For afternoon practice, Verstappen switched to a lower downforce setup and made other changes that appeared to unlock a lot of speed from the RB16B.

"I think we worked quite well, even during the session," he explained.

"Of course, FP1, I wasn't entirely happy, FP2 started still not amazing but I think the second set [of tyres], the car felt a lot better, a lot more connected. It is still really difficult around here.

"The track is very open, it is windy out there so it is not easy to nail the lap. I think it is a good end to the day so we can be competitive tomorrow.

"It is quite gusty as well so one lap it feels alright and the next lap, it can increase so it is not going to be easy to judge your mid-corner speeds but at the end of the day, everyone has to deal with it and we will try to find a good solution around it.

"It is not easy and also the temperatures were quite hot."

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In contrast, teammate Sergio Perez stuck to the higher downforce configuration and finished a full second behind his teammate in 12th place.

“I think if we are able to find the rhythm overnight, we should be able to get some good lap time," the Baku race winner commented.

“I got a pretty bad run, some traffic involved, and some changes that probably we took a wrong direction with them. I don’t think we were as bad as it looked.

“Max had a good day on pace and yes I think we are looking there and I think tomorrow hopefully we are able to find a lot of pace overnight, understand a bit the issues and we should be there.”