Leclerc fastest over improved Mercedes in FP2

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc topped Free Practice 2 at the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix from an improved Mercedes pairing of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc enjoyed the strongest single-lap pace as teams worked through qualifying simulations in the middle of the session.

The Ferrari driver underscored the pace he had in Free Practice 1, his best time some 0.2s better than he’d managed earlier in the day.

Russell and Hamilton were the big improvers, the former improving by 0.8s and the latter a full second.

Carlos Sainz was fourth best in the second Ferrari from Max Verstappen 0.336s off the pace in fifth.

All usual drivers were restored to their cars for Free Practice 2 after Perez, Guanyu Zhou, and Alex Albon all sat out the opening session.

Perez and Albon both headed out immediately, the Mexican logging a 1:22.946s early on.

Verstappen was fastest, 1:20.932 in the other Red Bull, shadowed by the two Ferraris with Carlos Sainz just 0.046s back in second and Charles Leclerc third just 0.063s down.

Lando Norris had a moment at Turn 7, bouncing through the gravel as he ran wide of the apex.

The Brit had the new floor fitted to his McLaren while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was running the older-spec design.

It was a deliberate ploy from the team as it gathered back-to-back data on the new bits ahead of them being fitted to both cars for Saturday’s running.

Valtteri Bottas was forced to stop his Alfa Romeo Sauber at Turn 1, drawing the Virtual Safety Car after 10 minutes.

The Finn reported that something broke before he parked the C42 on the grass with engine problems on the inside of Turn 1.

The delay lasted only three minutes before Bottas’ car was cleared and green flag running resumed.

Norris had a moment at Turn 9, running over the back of the kerbing, hanging on to the car as he dropped the left-hand wheels into the gravel.

With 22 minutes run, Sebastian Vettel went fastest for Aston Martin with a 1:20.703.

He did so on a set of soft compound tyres, besting Verstappen by 0.229s, though the Dutchman was also out on a set of the red rubber.

Perez rose to second fastest with a 1:20.792s soon after, Verstappen completing his lap moments later to log a 1:20.006s, 0.697s quicker than anyone to that point.

The Ferrari drivers followed on their own qualifying simulations, Sainz opting for a slow preparation lap before dropping the hammer.

In the first sector, he was 0.2s down on Verstappen, though was fastest of anyone through the middle third of the lap.

At the end of the lap, he’d recovered the time lost early on to go fastest by 0.016s with a 1:19.990s.

Team-mate Leclerc opted for a different strategy, pushing hard to open the lap to all but equal Verstappen’s best through the first split.

He was then four tenths faster than anyone through the middle of the lap and ended up with a 1:19.670s to go fastest from Sainz.

An encouraging performance in Free Practice 1 for Mercedes was reinforced by George Russell rising to second fastest, just 0.117s slower than Leclerc shortly after the halfway point of the session.

Lewis Hamilton was 14th when he began his own qualifying simulation run, recording a number of session-fastest microsectors through the middle of the lap.

It was enough to propel him into third fastest, 0.204s slower than Leclerc with a 1:19.874s.

Fernando Alonso was also showing well, sitting sixth best ahead of Perez, having been fifth best in Free Practice 1.

The Spaniard was 0.533s, having been almost a second away from the outright pace earlier in the day.

After his excursions, Norris was in the garage with his session over as a result of the damage to his car caused by the kerbs.

The team had removed the floor from the MCL36 as they worked to prepare the car for Saturday’s running.

Following the flurry of laps mid-session, attentions in the final 20 minutes again turned to race pace and tyre evaluation.

The medium and soft tyres were clearly the preferred rubber, with attentions split largely between those two compounds.

Lance Stroll was an exception, the Canadian continuing on the hard compound rubber.

The session drew to a close with little else of note, aside from Perez briefly touring the gravel at Turn 7, Leclerc ending proceedings ahead of the two Mercedes and Verstappen in fifth.

Ricciardo was only 15th best and Norris slowest, with just six laps to his name, while Bottas managed just three before he stopped early doors.

Teams return for Saturday’s Free Practice 3 at 21:00 AEST tonight.

Results: Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Free Practice 2

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 28 1:19.670
2 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 26 1:19.787 +0.117s
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 25 1:19.874 +0.204s
4 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 30 1:19.990 +0.320s
5 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 27 1:20.006 +0.336s
6 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 25 1:20.203 +0.533s
7 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 29 1:20.632 +0.962s
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin F1 Team 30 1:20.703 +1.033s
9 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 26 1:20.745 +1.075s
10 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 24 1:20.757 +1.087s
11 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 27 1:20.917 +1.247s
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 24 1:21.013 +1.343s
13 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 31 1:21.249 +1.579s
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 28 1:21.285 +1.615s
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 21 1:21.385 +1.715s
16 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 3 1:21.828 +2.158s
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team 29 1:21.866 +2.196s
18 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 30 1:22.319 +2.649s
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 24 1:23.197 +3.527s
20 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 6 1:23.388 +3.718s

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