The mystery of Red Bull’s testing pace

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Are Red Bull in trouble or just keeping their cards close to their chest?

Their quickest time over the combined eight days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya ranked seventh-quickest of the eleven teams. Just Williams, Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso were slower.

Red Bull usually play a cagey game in testing and this year they took that to even greater lengths. Three consecutive championship doubles mean their rivals scrutinize every move they make, especially at this critical time of the season.

When the RB9 ventured out onto the track in Spain the Red Bull mechanics awaited its return with screen and barriers to keep the photographers back. Mechanics jostled to keep lenses from getting a clear view of the car.

The team gave away little on the track. There were no headline-grabbing runs for fastest time. But in trying not to reveal too much about their car, did they create problems for themselves?

Sebastian Vettel admitted the team hadn’t got what it wanted out of last week’s two days of dry running: “I think it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact area [we need to improve] as the tires are not consistent enough.”

But to a man those who watched the RB9s on the track reported they looked stable and swift. It did not look like a slow car, just one that was carrying a lot of fuel. And a full tank at this track carries a lap time penalty of up to five seconds.

So will Red Bull’s 2.4s gap to Nico Rosberg’s 1’20.130 flyer on Sunday be the cause for sleepless nights in Milton Keynes? Don’t count on it. As Vettel made clear: “Where we are now on the time sheet is not that important.”

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”