Verstappen closed out the first of three days of pre-season testing with both the quickest time and the most laps completed, racking up more than two race distances in the RB16B.
The session marked the first extensive run-out for the RB16B, as well as its first public sighting after Red Bull kept it hidden following a filming day at Silverstone earlier this month.
Red Bull appeared to complete the day without any issues, with the only slight scare coming when Verstappen had a half-spin exiting Turn 2 in the opening session.
Verstappen called his day “very good” when speaking after the session, saying he was pleased with his efforts despite the tricky conditions as a sandstorm hit the circuit.
“We had a very positive day,” Verstappen said.
“We could do a lot of laps, even though the track conditions were quite difficult, very warm, a lot of wind, and of course we know the degradation around here is quite high, so it’s not easy to do a lot of laps in a row.
“But we’re very happy with today. We don’t need to speak about pace or whatever. We just did our programme.
“The car felt nice to drive, which I think is always very positive to start the test like that. That’s of course what you always aim for. When you can complete a day like this, we’re all very pleased.”
Verstappen recorded a fastest lap time of 1m30.674s, finishing two-tenths of a second clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris in second place.
It marked Red Bull’s strongest start to pre-season testing for some time, and starkly contrasted reigning champion squad Mercedes, which finished 91 laps off Verstappen’s total.
Asked if it would be possible to read into Red Bull’s performance later in testing, Verstappen said: “Maybe a little bit more.
“But I always want to wait until Q3 on the first race weekend. Then you’ll know you see the real pace in all the cars.”
The second session was marred by sandy conditions that left the track lacking grip, and appeared to show low visibility at times as the sun set and testing finished under floodlights.
“Just the heat initially makes it a bit more difficult in general,” Verstappen said.
“But I have to say I changed my visor, and I think it’s always a bit more tricky on the cameras. Sitting in the car, it’s fine.”
Verstappen will hand over the reins of the Red Bull RB16B to teammate Sergio Perez on Saturday before closing out the test for the team on Sunday evening.