Max Verstappen says that Red Bull doesn’t have a realistic chance of competing for pole position this weekend in Singapore.

The Dutch driver was third fastest at the end of Friday’s second free practice session underneath the floodlights of the Marina Bay circuit. Earlier, his team mate Daniel Ricciardo had been fastest in FP1.

But in evening conditions, both drivers were over half a second off the pace of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. It’s a gap that already looks insurmountable in tomorrow’s qualifying session.

“I don’t think we have the pace to fight for pole,” Verstappen admitted. “We’re a bit too far away.

“It was okay, I think we can still improve with the car,” he said after the end of FP2. “It was not the perfect day for me, but we will see what’s going to happen tomorrow.

“This morning’s practice felt good but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the second session,” he continued. “This afternoon we could have been a bit quicker over the short runs as we suffered a bit from understeer.

“It definitely wasn’t a bad day. Some hard work tonight should put us in a good position with ability to attack.

“We still need to improve the car a bit more, but we have another night to work on that, and we’ll see where we end up,” he said. “We still have plenty of room to improve ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”

This weekend is the first time that drivers will be using Pirelli’s latest hypersoft compound in Singapore, and Verstappen was still assessing how well the tyre was working.

“The hypersoft is not amazing in the long run, it very quickly goes away,” Verstappen said, adding that he favoured the ultrasoft and soft tyres so far. “The other compounds were not so bad which could make the race interesting.”

It could even see teams taking a strategic approach to qualifying on Saturday, potentially seeking to make it through Q2 on ultras with a view to starting the race on the purple-coloured rubber and bypassing the pink tyres altogether.

“I haven’t thought about that,” a wary Verstappen responded when asked whether that was on Red Bull’s mind this weekend.

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