F1 championship leader Max Verstappen ended the day in Jeddah just under 0.2s off title rival Lewis Hamilton in second practice.

Nicknamed ‘the fastest street circuit in the world’, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was expected to play into Mercedes’ strengths with straight-line performance and engine power critical.

Speaking after Friday practice, Horner revealed that the circuit is ‘tighter than the data suggested’ meaning horsepower isn’t as important to achieving a good lap time.

“You can see that it’s pretty tight,” Horner said. “It’s a challenging circuit, high-speed with walls and it’s going to be who gets the most out of the tyres, a clean lap, gets the most out of the car and runs as close to the walls as they dare. It’s going to be a fascinating competition.

“Qualifying is going to be crucial like all street circuits and then of course anything can happen in the race itself. The circuit is a little bit tighter than the data suggested, the corners are a little bit tighter so it’s not all the emphasis on horsepower that we thought it was going to be so that’s encouraging.

“You could see there’s a tenth or two between the two cars, between the drivers. on this type of circuit you can find that and that’s really encouraging for us.”

Both Mercedes drivers failed to improve when they switched to the soft tyres in FP2, while Verstappen found minimal time on the stickier rubber.

Horner is confident Red Bull can ‘unlock a lot of performance’ if it understands how to get the red-marked softs into the right working window for qualifying.

“We felt very strong on the hard tyre and the softer the compound we went, the more of a diva the tyre becomes to switch on and to get the maximum out of it,” he explained.

“There will be a lot of analysis going into that tonight, out laps, preparation and all of that kind of thing and I don’t think from listening to the comments that we were alone in that.

“I think there were others that were struggling to get the car into the right window but once you unlock that you can see there’s a lot of performance there.”

Reflecting on the day, Verstappen added: “We struggled to get heat into the tyres in FP2, which we will of course look into. Then we made a few changes from FP1 to FP2 which didn’t quite work but hopefully we can find the right balance come qualifying tomorrow. There are of course a lot of things to work on and improve so we’ll see what we can do to get more pace out of the car overnight. 

“Looking ahead to qualifying, I think it might be quite difficult with the traffic but in general it’s hard to tell how Saturday is going to go as anything can happen but we’ll push hard and give it everything.”