Verstappen: Still work to do to close gap to Mercedes

Max Verstappen says Red Bull will need to find gains overnight to close its gap to Mercedes although the Dutchman was satisfied with his opening day of running in Abu Dhabi.

After pipping Valtteri Bottas to lead FP1, Verstappen clocked in third in the evening session, 0.770s adrift from the leading Mercedes duo of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

Like the Mercedes pair, Verstappen set his fastest lap on Pirelli’s medium compound, having been hampered by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez during his qualifying simulation on the soft tyre.

“Today was ok and there is still a bit of work to do to close the gap to Mercedes who seem strong again but I didn’t get a lap time on the soft compound as I came up behind Perez on a long run so it’s hard to tell exactly what the gap is,” Verstappen explained.

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There was a flurry of lap time deletions in both sessions as drivers fell foul to track limits, an issue Verstappen hoped would be clarified in Friday evening’s driver briefing in Abu Dhabi.

“We will see what the other drivers say about track limits in the briefing tonight but it’s Friday practice which is always about exploring the limits and getting a better understanding of how wide you can go with the car,” he commented.

“In qualifying we know we can’t go so wide and will pay more attention, but I don’t think it’s a big issue.

“The soft tyre seemed to hold on ok so I think that will be ok for qualifying and we will see whether I can sit in a different Press Conference chair tomorrow.”

    Read also: Red Bull says focus still on Albon but Perez doing ‘great job’

Alex Albon, for whom the Abu Dhabi GP could make or break his future with Red Bull, was happy overall with his first day of practice.

“Today was a pretty standard practice day where you’re just working through the usual items and working the tyres to find out where that sweet spot is, but I was pretty happy and overall it was a good day,” he said.

“I think we need to look at the softs and how to work them better to get them into the right window, and also to stay in that window, but the mediums felt ok.

“It’s practice after all so I’m not really sure where Mercedes are based on today’s running but we’ll focus on ourselves, look at everything in more detail tonight ahead of qualifying tomorrow and see where we are.”

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