Verstappen confident Red Bull 'in the mix' at the Chinese GP

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Max Verstappen feels Red Bull is "in the mix" at the Chinese Grand Prix after finishing third on Friday.

The Dutchman was level on pace with Ferrari and Mercedes through the first two sectors but slipped two-tenths back in the final sector as their rivals straight-line speed made the difference.

Even so, for Red Bull to be that close is a notable improvement from Bahrain even if Verstappen was not too surprised.

“Today has been pretty good. We have a good balance in the car and not too many issues, so I’m pretty happy," he said.

"Of course there was a question mark coming here after Bahrain but we were all quite confident that if we could solve the issue we would be a lot closer, which I think we have shown today."

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Looking forward, Max admits the greater priority will be on optimising race pace with Red Bull's rivals expected to pull ahead in qualifying.

"I think pole position will be tough tomorrow and it’s too early to say exactly where we are, but we’re a lot closer, so hopefully, in the race, we can mix it up,” he stated.

But what may also help the Milton Keynes outfit is Sunday appears unlikely to be a simple one-stop strategy.

"The tyres are pretty weak, they degrade quite a lot, the softer compounds," Verstappen explained. "It’s not really nice. You’re really just managing tyres, so that’s just how it is."

As for teammate Pierre Gasly, there are signs of progress as he made the top 10 in both sessions, even if the between both Red Bull pilots remained almost a second.

“I always want more, but I’m quite happy with the programme today," the Frenchman commented. "I think we have a good direction and Max showed that the car has good potential. 

"In FP2, I had quite a big moment in the third sector on the fastest lap and lost a bit of time, so it’s actually not really representative of the potential of the car.

"It is important to find a compromise between qualifying and the race here, but the team has the experience and the knowledge so I’m sure we’ll find the right direction for tomorrow.”