Max Verstappen says Red Bull still has “more work to do” if it is to challenge Formula 1 rivals Mercedes at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Dutchman ended the day third-fastest behind the dominant Mercedes pair, with Verstappen getting within 0.281s of Friday pacesetter Valtteri Bottas’ benchmark.

Verstappen outpaced Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in what proved to be a promising day for Red Bull, with its engine supplier Honda introducing a new more powerful fuel at the Japanese manufacturer’s home event at Suzuka.

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

“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.”

FP2 marked the last on-track action until Sunday at Suzuka, with Saturday’s running cancelled amid the threat from the looming super typhoon Hagibis, which is forecast to hit landfall in Japan on Saturday.

Qualifying has subsequently been postponed until 1000 local time (0200 BST) on Sunday morning, prior to the race start.

The second 90-minute practice session could turn out to have decided the Japanese Grand Prix grid, as the starting order will be determined by the results of FP2 in the event that qualifying has to be abandoned altogether.

Asked how difficult it will be to reset on Sunday after the disruption to the weekend schedule, Verstappen replied: “That doesn’t matter [to me] at all.

“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.”

Red Bull teammate Alexander Albon was four-tenths adrift of Verstappen in his first-ever outing at Suzuka as he ended up sixth in the timesheets, behind both Ferraris.

“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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