Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheet in free practice two ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.139s. While Charles Leclerc of Ferrari completed the top three only 0.026s behind Bottas.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes consolidated on their excellent showing in free practice one by topping the Free Practice 2 session on Friday afternoon. Bottas kept his momentum going coming in second, 0.139s behind his teammate. Charles Leclerc surprised a few people when his first run on the soft tyre compound planted him in third just 0.165s behind Hamilton.
The session started in a frantic way, which has been the case for all the sessions this season. The shortened sessions mean fewer laps on the track and fewer data to take into Sunday’s race. Bottas was the first to set a lap time as everyone came out on the medium set of tyres.
By the end of the ten-minute mark, Bottas was fastest with 1m 18.419s, and Lewis came close to beating that time, setting the fastest sector one and sector two times but went slower in the final sector to come up short of Bottas time by 0.042s. Verstappen was third fastest in the initial stages before a piece of debris from Carlos Sainz‘s Ferrari brought out the Virtual Safety Car.
Alfa Romeo brought a few upgrades this weekend, as it was evident from the green paint to the side of Kimi Räikönen‘s car. Like Sainz, AlphaTauri‘s Yuki Tsunoda rode the sausage kerb at the exit of Turn 9, which caused his car to switch off midway through the race.
As one-third of the session elapsed, the frontrunners came out on the soft tyre compounds. Bottas was one of the first drivers to switch onto the softer compound and briefly went on top of the timesheets before Hamilton smashed it with a 1m 18.170s.
Leclerc started off his flying lap slowly before gathering momentum as the lap went on. His first sector time was worse than his time on the medium tyres but set a personal best in the second sector before setting the fastest third sector of the session. The young Monegasque ended up with an impressive 1m 18.335s, merely 0.026s behind the Mercedes of Bottas.
Alpine‘s new aerodynamic upgrades seemed to reward them handsomely as the duo of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso rounded off the top 5. The Alpines were just three-tenths off the pace of Lewis Hamilton, which is quite impressive.
Pierre Gasly continued his good run for AlphaTauri in sixth while Yuki Tsunoda learned from his early mistakes and finished in seventh just 0.026s behind his teammate. With the gap between Hamilton and seventh place, Tsunoda just 0.449s. The midfield battle is going to be tight come Saturday’s Qualifying session.
Carlos Sainz had a decent outing once again, finishing in eighth while the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez rounded off the top 10. The Red Bull team should be apprehensive about this performance. Though Verstappen had to abort his qualifying run on the soft tyre compound, Pérez could only manage the 10th fastest time in a completed qualifying run on the soft compounds; astonishingly almost eight tenths off Hamilton’s pace at the top.
Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll could not build on their good performance in FP1 as the duo finished 11th and 14th, respectively, one second off the pace. Lando Norris was disappointing in free practice two after his fourth-place finish in FP1. Daniel Ricciardo was no good either as the two of the finished 12th and 15th resp. The drop in pace for McLaren is quite alarming, given that teams like Ferrari and Alpine have been making progress in recent weeks and now seem to be ahead of McLaren based on Friday’s sessions.
Kimi Räikönen returned to take his seat for the FP2 session as Robert Kubica made way for the 41-year-old veteran. Both Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi had a decent pace running with new upgrades on their cars. After ending the session on the 13th and 16th, respectively, Alfa Romeo would at least be hoping for two cars in the Q2 session of Qualifying this Saturday.
The two teams at the bottom of the table had nothing to show for themselves as the teams struggled to make any inroads in the midfield group. George Russell and Nicholas Latifi finished 17th and 18th, while the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin rounded off the last two places.
As the drivers went for long race runs in the last 20 minutes of the session, it was pretty interesting to note that Hamilton was averaging around 1m 22.6s on the mediums while Verstappen was lapping third-tenths slower than him on used softs. Leclerc and Bottas had an identical lap time of 1m 23.0s over eight laps of the long race run on the mediums. As things stand, Leclerc and Ferrari can surprise a few of the front runners this Sunday afternoon.