Verstappen doubts Red Bull can keep up with Mercedes, Ferrari at Spa

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Max Verstappen doubts Red Bull will be able to keep up with Formula 1 rivals Mercedes and Ferrari across the course of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix despite an impressive showing in practice on Friday afternoon.

Verstappen finished fourth in FP2 for Red Bull, lapping just four-tenths of a second slower than pace-setter Lewis Hamilton and beating current championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

The result gave Red Bull some hope that it may be able to take the fight to the leading teams at Spa, but Verstappen is staying grounded, believing his rivals will move up a gear on Saturday for qualifying.

“An OK first day back here at Spa but nothing special. Between Daniel [Ricciardo] and myself we tried a few setups to improve speed on the straights, it’s somewhere we need to improve in order to fight so we are trying to find a good compromise,” Verstappen said.

“At the moment we don’t seem too far off the two top teams but it is only Friday, I’m sure it will be a different gap tomorrow. It’s hard here to find the setup to be competitive on the straights but also balanced in the corners, we will make some steps in the right direction tonight, hopefully.

“In the dry I think we will be the solid third team like we have seen so far this season. Although it’s raining at the moment I don’t think there is much more forecast. This is a shame as it would definitely help us; fingers crossed we get a bit more for the race.”

Verstappen is racing in front of a sizeable crowd of fans from his native Netherlands at Spa, something he is already excited by.

“There is already a lot of orange to be seen in the crowd and it’s only Friday,” Verstappen said.

“I’m expecting to see a lot more tomorrow and Sunday which is really great and nice to see so many fans supporting me.

“It always helps come race day.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.