After finishing free practice one 0.319s off pacesetter Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of free practice two beating Max Verstappen’s time by 0.143s.
The one-hour-long practice session was delayed by ten minutes after track officials inspected a drain cover on the outside of Turn 11. With a delayed start and the trimming of practice runs for this season, all cars were on track which meant finding track position was difficult for most drivers.
Barring Haas‘s Nikita Mazepin on hard tyres, everyone else opted for the medium tyre compound. As the field spread itself out and all the drivers had a decent go at it, it was Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz who emerged with the fastest time of 1m20.837s.
The lead changed back and forth as more fuel burnt and tyres reached optimal temperature. By the end of the 20-minute mark, Verstappen set the fastest time of 1m20.332s as the Mercs reemerged for their first go at the softer tyre compound.
Bottas beat Verstappen’s time with a 1m20.181s, but he lost time in some crucial parts in his qualifying run. Verstappen rallied back and kept improving his times each lap on his medium set of tyres.
Hamilton, who struggled the majority of free practice one with balance issues, looked in harmony with his car. The Brit set the fastest first and second sector times but failed to improve on his own personal best third sector time, but it was still good enough to take him 0.344s clear of his teammate with a 1m19.837s.
Few minutes after the clock hit the halfway mark for the session, Verstappen came out on the soft compound tyres for his qualifying run. He went quickest on the first sector but continuously lost time throughout the second and third sectors which ultimately landed him in second place.
That set the order for the top three as minutes later teams switched strategies and started collecting data on long-run pace for Sunday’s race.
Sainz finished the session with a strong fourth place, cementing Ferrari’s bid for a potential podium this weekend, while the surprising duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finished a respectable fifth and sixth respectively.
Charles Leclerc couldn’t build on his fourth-position finish from free practice one but will be satisfied with the seventh place. Daniel Ricciardo was the better of the two McLaren’s as he finished eighth while Lando Norris could only muster a disappointing P12.
Lance Stroll and his former teammate and current Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez rounded off the top 10. Pérez would be disappointed with his practice two performances as the new floor update seemed to unsettle his car rather than enhance its performance.
Pierre Gasly could only muster P11 – the leading of the two AlphaTauris – with Yuki Tsunoda languishing in P14. George Russell couldn’t continue to build on his practice one pace as the wind-sensitive Williams car struggle in the gusty conditions in Portimão.
Former teammates Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen finished fifteenth and sixteenth respectively, while Antonio Giovinazzi returned with Callum Ilott making way; the Italian driver could only finish as high as seventeenth.
It remains to be seen what changes the teams make depending on today’s showing. Mercedes look to have the upper hand over Red Bull while Ferrari have the better of McLaren. One final roll of the dice remains before Saturday’s qualifying showdown.