Max Verstappen finished third in each of the Friday practice sessions, but admits the eight tenth gap in single lap pace will be too large to bridge in qualifying.
Verstappen to victory scorching 70th Anniversary Grand Prix last time out, and the Dutchman hopes that he will once again be able to challenge Mercedes on Sunday.
He admitted: “Well qualifying I don’t think so. Mercedes is really fast, but who knows in the race. Let’s see on Sunday if it’s going to be the same.”
Focussing on the longer run pace, he added: “Over one lap we are clearly lacking to Mercedes but overall, I think it was a positive day. Especially on the long runs. The car felt really nice to drive.”
In qualifying at Silverstone, Verstappen ran the hardest compound available in Q2, a decision that afforded him the most strategic options for the grand prix itself.
However, with Pirelli bringing harder compounds to Spain, Verstappen says a repeat of this gamble is unlikely.
He said: “I think the compounds are so hard that you don’t need to go that extreme like we did in the second week at Silverstone.
“We are using all the hardest compounds, so I think it’s okay, it’s manageable. I would have liked a bit softer but it is what it is.”
Team principal Christian Horner echoed the comments of Verstappen, telling Sky Sports: "I think Mercedes' one-lap pace advantage you can see here again today.
"I think we take encouragement from Max's longer runs. Particularly on the medium tyre he looked really competitive. That's encouraging for Sunday."
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