Max Verstappen admitted Red Bull have lap time to find after ending Saturday’s running six-tenths of a second slower than the quickest Mercedes.Lewis Hamilton set the pace around the remodelled Yas Marina circuit, lowering the best of the day to a 1’23.691 in second practice.
Verstappen said Red Bull are “still learning and understanding a few things” following the first day of practice in Abu Dhabi.
“Clearly the short run didn’t go to plan, lacking a bit of pace,” he said. “But I think the long runs were a bit more competitive so that’s also important.”
The two championship-contending teams were unexpectedly split by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon on Friday. However, Hamilton expects the gaps between them to close up over the rest of the weekend.
“It’s still a bit unknown in terms of pace but I’m sure it’s going to be super-close like it has been in the previous races,” said the Mercedes driver.
He said his car “doesn’t feel too bad” so far. “It started off good then got a bit worse in P1, started off better in the second session with some changes we made.
“But now we’re just going to crank through the data and try and figure out how we can improve. The target is always moving.”
Hamilton needs to out-score Verstappen by one point or more this weekend to clinch the championship. He said he was encouraged by the progress Mercedes was made on the first day of the event.
“I feel great in my body and I think we made some positive steps set-up-wise,” he said. “We’ll try and perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow.”
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