The 17-year-old, who is the youngest man to drive in F1, clocked the 12th fastest time after 22 laps in a Toro Rosso on Friday morning at Suzuka before a broken exhaust valve ended his session with six minutes remaining.
The Dutchman’s time was just 0.4 seconds slower than Daniil Kvyat, who will partner him at the Italian team next season, and Verstappen is confident he can go quicker.
“Today for me it was all about getting experience in the car, especially on a difficult track like Suzuka,” Verstappen said
“I was impressed with the engine power. The car is bigger compared to the one I’m used to in Formula 3 and there are a lot more things to think about while you’re driving, so I had to use some laps to get confident with such a different car.
“I was not taking any risks and I drove within my limits for all the session, doing as much mileage as possible.”
Verstappen, son of former Benetton, Arrows and Minardi driver Jos Verstappen, already has his sights set on more time in the STR9 in further practice sessions.
“I have to thank Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso for giving me the possibility to be in the car already this year on Fridays and get well prepared for next year,” he added.
“I find myself very comfortable in this team and I like my working group. I hope to drive also in Austin, Sao Paolo and Abu Dhabi.
“Now that I know what it means to drive a Formula 1 car, I’m looking forward to it even more.”
Reflecting on Friday’s two practice sessions, Phil Charles, Toro Rosso’s chief race engineer added: “It was a mixed day, with some positives but also a few negatives.
“The real positive was Max’s performance as he drove a fantastic first session.
“We are very pleased with him, as he settled in very well and produced laps times we would not have expected for a first day.”
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BIOGRAPHY: Nabil Fekir