Mercedes tops hotly contested second practice
By Mat Coch
Saturday 8th May, 2021 - 12:12am
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have topped a hotly contested second practice session for this weekend’s Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix.
The Mercedes duo went fastest during the qualifying simulations midway through the 60-minute session, Hamilton setting a 1:18.170s versus Bottas’ 1:18.309s.
Traffic masked the true pace of the Red Bulls, Max Verstappen just ninth and Sergio Perez 10th, with Charles Leclerc ending the day third fastest.
Having sat out the morning session, Kimi Raikkonen was first out as Free Practice 2 got underway.
All the early runners, which was the entire field with the exception of Verstappen and the two Alpines, headed out on medium compound tyres.
Track and air temperature remained largely unchanged from Free Practice 1, with a 41 degree track temp and 21 degree air.
First of the serious runners to set a lap was Bottas, a 1:19.087s.
Shortly after, Hamilton began a timed lap, completing the opening third of the Barcelona circuit 0.011s up on his team-mate.
He lost half a tenth through the middle third, and more in the final sector to set a 1:19.323s.
Verstappen had headed out offset to most, and promptly recorded a 1:19.041s to go fastest by 0.046s.
At the 10-minute mark, Bottas returned to the top of the timing sheets with a 1:18.419s.
Hamilton also improved, setting a 1:18.461s to all but match his Mercedes team-mate.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed after 11 minutes so a marshal could collect some bodywork on the track exiting Turn 9.
A minute later, the green flag was shown, Charles Leclerc promptly running through the escape road at Turn 2 but able to rejoin and carry on.
Behind Verstappen in third, who’d improved to a 1:18.785, came to two Alpines – Fernando Alonso ahead of Esteban Ocon.
Pierre Gasly split the pair with 44 minutes remaining, the Frenchman recording a 1:19.406s to sit fifth fastest to that point.
His time came as most headed back to the pits, leaving only Daniel Ricciardo and the two Alfa Romeos on track.
Ricciardo’s best was just 1:20.115s, though encouragingly only 0.2s away from what Lando Norris had managed at the same point.
Bottas began a qualifying simulation with 40 minutes to run, both he and Hamilton having emerged with a set of soft compound tyres on their Mercedes.
The Finn was down to the first split by 0.277s, but found time to sit just 0.080s down at the second intermediate.
By the end of the lap, he’d improved to 1:18.309 to go fastest, briefly, as Hamilton set a 1:18.170s.
The tempo of the Brit’s lap was largely similar to Bottas’; a slow start to the lap before finding time in the middle sector and improving further still to complete the lap.
Norris climbed to sixth fastest on his qualifying simulation with a 1:19.092s, just over 0.1s slower than Sebastian Vettel in fifth.
Gasly then moved up to third fastest only to be deposed by Leclerc and Ocon.
The Ferrari driver set a 1:18.335s while Ocon crossed the line with a 1:18.466s.
Both Ferrari drivers showed well, with Carlos Sainz banking the fifth best time at 1:18.674s.
Times between Ferrari, Alpine, Aston Martin, and McLaren appeared close, the midfield nipping at the heels of the Mercedes duo at the top of the timing screen.
Ricciardo’s qualifying run saw the Australian bank a 1:19.195s, leaving him 14th in the standings.
His effort compared to Norris’ 1:19.092s, which saw him 11th, highlighting how close the midfield pack was.
Shortly after the halfway mark in the session, the order painted a confused picture.
While the two Mercedes topped the timing, it was then Leclerc, the two Alpines, both AlphaTauris, Carlos Sainz, and only then Verstappen in ninth and Perez 10th.
Verstappen’s time was unrepresentative, the Dutchman having aborted his lap after a mistake at Turn 10.
Notably absent from the top 10 were the two McLarens, Norris 0.9s away from Hamilton’s best.
The final third of the session saw teams switch focus to high fuel running.
Times slowed as a consequence with the order set during the qualifying simulation phase ultimately how they ended the session.
The chequered flag fell to confirm Hamilton as the fastest of the hour long hit out, with Bottas second and Leclerc third.
Alpine showed well, as did AlphaTauri, while Red Bull’s potential was somewhat masked.
Just an hour of practice remains before qualifying for Sunday’s race, Free Practice 3 scheduled to commence at 20:00 AEST on Saturday.
Results: Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Free Practice 2
|4||31||Esteban Ocon||ALPINE RENAULT||1:18.466||+0.296s||29|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||ALPINE RENAULT||1:18.518||+0.348s||30|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:18.593||+0.423s||32|
|7||22||Yuki Tsunoda||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:18.619||+0.449s||30|
|9||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:18.785||+0.615s||26|
|10||11||Sergio Perez||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:18.918||+0.748s||23|
|11||5||Sebastian Vettel||ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES||1:18.947||+0.777s||30|
|12||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN MERCEDES||1:19.092||+0.922s||28|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:19.122||+0.952s||29|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES||1:19.134||+0.964s||29|
|15||3||Daniel Ricciardo||MCLAREN MERCEDES||1:19.195||+1.025s||28|
|16||7||Kimi Räikkönen||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:19.213||+1.043s||30|
|17||63||George Russell||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:19.957||+1.787s||29|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:20.046||+1.876s||26|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||HAAS FERRARI||1:20.326||+2.156s||30|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||HAAS FERRARI||1:20.753||+2.583s||27|