Max Verstappen is confident Red Bull can be "in the fight" across the Russian Grand Prix weekend despite being left with work to do following a day dominated by numerous downforce tests.
The medium-to-slow-speed Sochi Autodrom has never suited Red Bull, underlined by the fact the team has failed to score a podium finish in the history of an event now in its seventh year.
Verstappen could only finish seventh quickest, 1.529secs adrift of pacesetter Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes, while Alex Albon was 1.723s off the pace in 12th.
"In general we know this track is not the best for us, but we were also trying out some downforce levels and seeing what is the best option," explained Verstappen, who suffered a spin at one point in the second session after posting personal bests in the first two sectors.
"FP2, we could have done a bit better, but again we were testing some things out. Some worked, some didn't, so it gives us a few ideas for tomorrow.
"It will be tough in qualifying to be in P3, but in the race it looks a bit more competitive so I'm happy about that. There's still a bit of work to do to make sure we are P3."
Highlighting Renault as his biggest threat to that P3 slot, with Daniel Ricciardo third quickest on the day, Verstappen added: "They have been very competitive.
"But first of all we have to look at ourselves and make the right trade-off with downforce levels to make sure the car is stable, and then I'm quite confident, quali will be tight, but I think we can be in the fight."
Albon, scoring his maiden podium last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, endured another tough practice outing he declared was "tricky".
"There's some data to look at, different things we tried on Max's and my car, so hopefully we find something in between there and find something good," said Albon.
"We knew here was going to be hard, the midfield has obviously made a big step since last year so it's a bit tighter. We need to do some homework to find out where we can gain little bits.
"We just need a really good balance so if you're good on the short run you'll be good on the long run. We are just missing a little bit in both."
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