We were under way once more at the Bahrain International Circuit with the second free practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with what was expected to be a very interesting session under the lights here in Jeddah. The Aston Martin cars, who impressed by taking third and fourth in the first session of the day, were two of the first cars out on track.
Like Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton was an early entrant onto the track in Jeddah. The Briton secured a top five in Practice 1. Scuderia Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sets the early pace in FP2, until they were eclipsed by Max Verstappen’s 1:30:801.
The drivers were out on hard and medium tyres at this stage moment as they got in some race prep. They later switched to the softs, when it got a little cooler, for qualifying simulation.
Alpine pair Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon readily admit they are not best buddies but they were very close on the timesheets, fourth and fifth respectively. There were plenty of cars out on the track at this stage, including Sergio Perez, who went quickest with 1:29:902. The soft tyres were in operation now.
Midway through the session, Fernando Alonso came ever so close to clipping the SF-23 car of Carlos Sainz. The Aston Martin driver was still third at this stage, just behind the two Red Bull cars, with Nico Hulkenberg and his Haas in fourth. The Dutchman deployed the soft tyres and promptly leapfrogged his Red Bull team-mate Perez by posting a time of 1:29.603.
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There were issues for Alfa Romeo: Bottas and Guanyu were way down the field in the first free practice session and it was a similar story in the second free practice session.
Valtteri Bottas was propping up the field, close to a second and a half behind Max Verstappen. Alfa Romeo could do with a rise of the Valtteri, while the Mercedes duo set some quick laps, but didn’t seem as quick as their rivals: George Russell was fifth, but Lewis Hamilton can only manage 11th – the car looked unstable at the rear, and George Russell called on the radio for a change in setup.
Scuderia Ferrari was also far off the race, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ninth and 10th respectively, some eight tenths off Max Verstappen in the Monegasque driver’s case and nearly a second in Carlos Sainz’s. Ocon and Russell made up the top five, behind our customary top three of Verstappen, Perez and Alonso.
Charles Leclerc is going to take a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday due to new engine components being taken on, so the last thing he needed is more reliability woes. But the Ferrari driver reported problems with the clutch as he left the pit lane…
In the final stages of the second free practice session at the Jeddah Corniche circuit, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc seemed to both struggle.
Max Verstappen has not been complimentary about the car through his least favourite corner – the last one. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc had a huge snap on a flying lap. Still, Max Verstappen was the fastest in FP1 and again in FP2 as he laid down yet another dominant marker.
Charles Leclerc finished the session in P9, +0.738 from the Red Bull benchmark, followed closely by his Maranello teammate in tenth place, in another difficult afternoon for Ferrari.
This top three is starting to look very familiar…
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:29.603
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +0.208
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.299
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.436
- George Russell (Mercedes) +0.467
- Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +0.497
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +0.507
- Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +0.578
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.738
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.989
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.996
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.118
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.173
- Alex Albon (Williams) +1.207
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.217
- Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) +1.234
- Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri) +1.318
- Logan Sargeant (Williams) +1.356
- Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1.361
- Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +1.449
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