Max Verstappen says the new layout at the Yas Marina Circuit is a lot more fun to drive than its predecessor, but there is still work for his Red Bull Racing team to do if they are to be competitive this weekend.
Verstappen topped the first session in Abu Dhabi on Friday afternoon but was more than six-tenths of a second off title rival Lewis Hamilton in the evening as the Dutchman looked to get to grips with the track under the floodlights.
Ahead of his most important weekend of his career as he bids to win his maiden World Championship, Verstappen says the long run pace of his RB16B looks strong, but they need to address the shortfalls over one lap.
“I like the new track layout, it’s more fun to drive with the faster corners, especially in the last sector,” said Verstappen. “We made a few changes to the set up across the two sessions and I do think they are positive.
“We are still learning and understanding a few things. The short runs didn’t go to plan, we are lacking a bit of pace but I think the long runs were more competitive so that’s important.
“I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow to put it all together.”
“We ran very different set-ups across the two cars” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez does not have the same confidence in the updates to the circuit, with the Mexican not convinced it will create additional overtaking opportunities.
Pérez ended inside the top five in both sessions on Friday as he learned the new track, and he admitted he was running a different set-up to Verstappen to give the team a lot more information to delve through overnight in order to give both drivers a chance of qualifying at the front of the pack on Saturday.
“I don’t know how much the track has improved since last year,” said Pérez. “It’s still nice to drive but there are question marks for me on whether it has improved the racing.
“I think we have some work to do overnight after today’s sessions. We ran very different set-ups across the two cars, so we’ve got plenty of information that we need to go through in detail and pick out the best parts for qualifying.
“There will be learnings to take forward into our final practice session so we can look to qualify strongly on Saturday.”