« I think we’ve definitely taken a step forward as a team, ” he said. « TThe car feels great and I think we expected worse, to be honest, for Friday.
« But the car was plugged in straight away the first time we drove it in FP1. So that looks good. Obviously I’m sure the mercenaries hide a lot, so we’ll be looking at them tomorrow, bOtherwise I think as a car it feels well balanced.
His team-mate Max Verstappen, whose fastest lap was ruined after being forced to slow down to avoid a Romain Grosjean cruise, was also encouraged by how he felt behind the wheel.
“It wasn’t a bad day for us,” said the Dutchman, who finished the afternoon session 14th. “I think the car is performing a little better so I’m happy with it.
“There are still things you can improve on and we’ll be working on it, but in the long run it looked pretty decent so overall a pretty positive day.
Red Bull entered the 2020 season in what they believed to be their best winter in years and aimed to challenge Mercedes for both titles. But so far he has not been able to fight the world champion team on a level playing field.
His RB16 turned out to be a tricky car to master, with team boss Christian Horner admitting after the recent Hungarian Grand Prix that it suffered from aerodynamic anomalies.