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Max Verstappen: 0.3s Merc deficit acceptable for Red Bull

Hypersoft tyres making their mark at testing (2:45)

ESPN's Nate Saunders and Laurence Edmondson discuss the surprising track times set by teams on the hypersoft tyres from yesterday's testings and what can be expected on the final day. (2:45)

MONTMELO, Spain -- Max Verstappen says closing the qualifying gap to Mercedes is key to Red Bull's chances of beating the world champions to race wins in 2018.

Mercedes has dominated Saturdays during the V6 turbo era with its now-famous qualifying engine modes, which has often been enough to open a gap to its rivals. By contrast Red Bull, a team hoping to mount a championship challenge this season, have scored just one pole position since 2014.

Last year Red Bull finished on a high, with Verstappen claiming two race wins in the closing stages of the season, but the Dutchman knows more work needs to be done.

"First of all, we have to be closer," he said. "Once you are within three or four tenths in qualifying, at least you can fight them in the race because normally in the race it should be a bit closer. We are definitely targeting to be in those three tenths."

"Our car from the beginning of 2017 to the end was already a massive difference, so we expect to be a lot closer. I don't know how close we will be, but we will find out in practice and qualifying over there."

The other team aiming to end Mercedes' dominance, Ferrari, enjoyed an impressive penultimate day of testing, with Sebastian Vettel setting a new lap record of the Circuit de Catalunya. Verstappen has no doubts the Italian team will in the mix.

"It is a good lap time for sure, but we knew that they were going to be strong, and Mercedes will be strong as well. We just try to be very close.''