Helmut Marko admits that he was shocked by the progress made by Mercedes during Friday's opening practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix, as well as being surprised by certain areas of Ferrari's performance. Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets in both hours, whilst Max Verstappen placed third in FP1 and fifth in FP2 respectively. Marko was left feeling that, in terms of long-run pace, Red Bull are looking strong. "Our long-run [pace] has satisfied me," Marko told media, including RacingNews365.com . "We lose over a single lap, especially in Sector 2. There are two corners where we lose all the time and we should be able to solve that." In this area, Marko thinks that the team may have an edge over their rivals. "[During] the long run, both cars were good in terms of tyre wear on both the Soft and Medium tyres," he said. "In terms of long runs, we were the best, followed by Mercedes and then Ferrari."
Marko surprised by Ferrari's "poor long runs"
With one of Red Bull's main concerns being reducing the weight of their car, Marko says that the team are satisfied with how their latest upgrades are working in this regard. "Our updates are working properly," the Austrian said. However, he is surprised to see that the package introduced by Ferrari in Barcelona is seemingly not putting them that far ahead of their rivals yet. "It is difficult to introduce good updates with these current technical rules," Marko explained. "Just look at Mercedes, how long they took to solve their problems. I am particularly surprised by Ferrari's poor long runs and their tyre wear."
Mercedes "suddenly the runner-up"
On the other hand, Marko has been taken aback by the steps made by Mercedes on Friday, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finishing FP2 in second and third respectively. "At the same time, I find it amazing that Mercedes is suddenly the runner-up, provided they can also show this pace on Saturday," he said. "Their long runs show that they are on the right track." With this in mind, Marko is expecting a three-team fight for pole position in Saturday's qualifying session. "On Saturday, the battle for pole will be between three teams," the Red Bull advisor stated. "Qualifying is traditionally very important in Spain, as overtaking is very difficult here. However, due to Ferrari's tyre wear, several strategies are possible as it's only going to get hotter."