Max Verstappen suspects Mercedes will be out of reach after trailing Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in second F1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

All three drivers failed to make significant gains on Pirelli’s softer rubber in FP2 as Verstappen ended the day third fastest, just over 0.7s behind Bottas.

After qualifying third for the ninth time in 16 races last time out in Sakhir, Verstappen joked: “I'm used to sitting in this chair. It might actually have my prints.”

 

 

Verstappen then made a similar quip after FP2 in Abu Dhabi: “Like the whole year! I’m going to claim my seat again!”

Reflecting on practice itself, Verstappen said: “It was OK. Nothing crazy, but still a bit of work to do to try and close the gap to Mercedes, they seem very strong again. Even though I didn’t really get a lap in on the softer compound, but it’s OK.”

Track limits appeared to be a problem during practice with drivers running wide at the final corner.

The Dutchman doubts it will be an issue come qualifying and says it's likely to be discussed in the drivers’ meeting later today.

“Yeah I had a few as well but it’s Friday practice,” Verstappen added. “You know in qualifying you can’t go there so you’ll pay a bit more attention. We’ll see what all the other drivers say in the briefing as well tonight but I think at the end of the day it will 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.”

Alexander Albon ended the day in fourth place, just over 0.9s behind Bottas.

Like the top three, Albon struggled to get the soft tyres working over one lap.

“Yeah it was going OK actually, just trying to get the softs working a bit better than they were,” Albon said. “Like always you know you’ve got to unlock the tyres and figure out the sweet spot.

“It feels OK on the mediums, but actually I don’t think Mercedes improved either on the softs so maybe it’s a tyre thing, I’m sure we’ll look at it for tomorrow and see what we can do.”