Verstappen pleased with FP2 improvement

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen pleased with "flying" pace of car

Max Verstappen pleased with "flying" pace of car

Max Verstappen was happy with his jump in performance between FP1 and FP2, but feels there is a long way to go to catch Mercedes in Japan.

Mercedes dominated Friday practice at Suzuka, with Valtteri Bottas topping both sessions ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

But, Verstappen was able to reduce the 1.3 second-gap to Bottas at the end of FP1 down to 0.28s when the chequered flag waved to end FP2, finishing P3 ahead of the Ferraris.

The Dutchman believes that FP2 was a good “recovery” after a tough morning session, but still thinks he needs to find more in order to challenge the Mercedes pair.

“I think the first practice was not so good, but the second practice we improved a lot,” he explained to reporters.

“That seemed a bit more promising. But still, Mercedes is very quick and we have some more work to do. But it was a decent recovery.”

Formula 1 will now shut down until Sunday with Typhoon Hagibis expected to move over the circuit on Saturday.

Qualifying is set to take place at 1000 local time (0200 BST) on Sunday, but if qualifying can’t go ahead before the race, then the FP2 standings will determine the grid.

The mixed up schedule doesn’t bother Verstappen though, and he in fact is happy that FP3 has been scrapped for the weekend, believing that the less time spent on track the better.

“That doesn’t matter [to me] at all,” he said when asked about the revised plans for the weekend.

“It’s just a free day and then on Sunday morning we go again. It’s not like it’s the end of the world or something dramatic happens.

“It’s just they move qualifying and you skip FP3 but I actually don’t mind, I think the less we run the better for me.”

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon negotiated the Suzuka circuit for the first time on Friday, but was able to finish FP2 just four tenths behind Verstappen and within 0.03s of Sebastian Vettel.

The Anglo-Thai driver thought he put in an “OK” day’s work but, like his team-mate, is struggling to plot a way to challenge Mercedes.

“I think it’s been OK,” he summarised. “Mercedes still looks pretty quick and are doing a lot of damage in the corners.

“There’s more work to do and obviously we’ll see on Sunday if it’s dry.”

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