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Verstappen hails 'good start' to title-defending year

Max Verstappen was thrilled with how the first day of pre-season testing went for Red Bull, despite finishing in ninth place on the timesheets.

Max Verstappen had a low-key but productive day to kick off Red Bull's pre-season testing programme. With the Dutch driver going into the 2022 season aiming to defend his Drivers' World Championship title, ninth place on the timing screens for the first day of the pre-season test in Barcelona may not seem like much, but it was Verstappen's high lap count that caught the eye at the chequered flag. With Verstappen at the wheel of the new RB18 for the entire day, he racked up 147 laps in total over the course of the eight hours of track time. In contrast, only Ferrari did more laps - just six more - with their 153 shared between Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Verstappen finished 2.7 seconds away from the pace set by McLaren's Lando Norris, but was still very happy with how his day behind the wheel had unfolded. "The car is completely different. I think the RB18 looks good but, of course, it's about being fast [and] we hope to see that," Verstappen told his own website after the session. "Today it was about doing a lot of laps, getting used to the car, and getting an idea of ​​how the car behaves. "Everything worked fine, so it was a good start. Tonight we will see what we can already learn and take with us to tomorrow, when Checo [Perez] is in the car."

A minor off isn't a concern for Verstappen

On what was otherwise a very steady day, Verstappen was one of the only drivers to make an error during the session as he went off into the gravel in dramatic fashion. Fortunately for him, he didn't do any damage and was able to resume the track and continue his programme without interruption. "Of course, you go wide here or there or you lock a wheel," explained an unconcerned Verstappen afterwards. "You also find out what the balance of the car is, and step by step what the limits of the car are. But the most important thing is to drive a lot and let the different parts put in miles."

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