Max ready to claim P3 seat again in Abu Dhabi

Jamie Woodhouse

Max Verstappen ready to settle in to P3 seat at Abu Dhabi GP.

Max Verstappen joked that he was heading off to claim his P3 seat again behind Mercedes after free practice in Abu Dhabi.

The Dutchman made an encouraging start to the final Friday practice of the season, topping FP1 ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

But by the end of FP2 normal service was resumed as Bottas moved to the top of the standings ahead of returning team-mate Lewis Hamilton who made it a Mercedes one-two.

That left Verstappen settling into his familiar P3 spot, 0.77s down on Bottas’ benchmark.

“It was okay, nothing crazy, but yeah still a bit of work to do to try and close the gap to Mercedes, they seemed very strong again,” Verstappen reflected when speaking to reporters after free practice at Yas Marina Circuit.

“Even though I didn’t really get a lap in on the softer compound, it’s okay.”

Several drivers were falling foul of track limits at the final corner, but Verstappen said that’s always to be expected in free practice.

“I had a few as well but it’s Friday practice, you know in qualifying you can’t go there so you will pay a bit more attention,” he said.

“We’ll see what all the other drivers say in the briefing as well tonight, but I think at the end of the day we’ll be fine.

“Today you’re just exploring the limits and you get a better understanding of how wide you can go with the car until you go over.”

Mercedes have been unstoppable in the turbo-hyrbid era at Yas Marina Circuit, claiming victory in every Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2014.

It’s no surprise then that Verstappen is ready to get himself set up nice and early in his P3 seat.

Asked if Mercedes are out of reach, the Dutchman replied: “Like the whole year, I’m going to claim my seat again.”

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Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon is preparing for his final race to convince Red Bull that he deserves a 2021 seat, and what better way to prove it than “giving it a go” at trying to catch Mercedes.

“It was okay actually, just trying to get the softs to work a bit better than they were,” he said when asked for his thoughts on Friday practice.

“Like always you’ve got a lot going on with the tyres and figuring out the sweet spot, it feels okay on the mediums, but actually Mercedes I don’t think improved either on the softs so maybe it’s a tyre thing.

“We’ll always give it a go, we’ll see where they’re fast, and if we see that I’m sure we’ll push on.”

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