Verstappen bounces back as Sainz crashes in Monaco practice
By Mat Coch
Saturday 27th May, 2023 - 2:09am
Max Verstappen was in a happier place with his Red Bull as he topped second practice in Monaco as Carlos Sainz crashed out.
Verstappen had complained of a number of issues through Free Practice 1 before topping the second hour over Charles Leclerc.
The margin was small, however, just 0.065s between the pair on their qualifying simulation runs, with Sainz third just 0.107s off the outright pace.
However, the Spaniard’s session ended early when he crashed exiting the Swimming Pool.
A busy start saw all bar Lando Norris and Alex Albon out on track in the opening five minutes.
Verstappen set the early pace with a 1:15.482s, only to have that quickly bumped by George Russell’s 1:15.482s.
The medium and hard tyres were again favoured by the field, with only Sainz and Leclerc on the white-walled rubber.
Norris’ entry to the session was delayed as the team worked on a suspension change on the front end of his McLaren MCL60.
On track, finding a clear lap around the Monaco streets was proving difficult.
Sergio Perez came across two cars as he reached Massenet while Sainz was baulked by his Ferrari team-mate at the Swimming Pool.
The pace quickly moved on, Verstappen was fastest after 15 minutes on a 1:13.857s, 0.015s quicker than Fernando Alonso and 0.096s up on Sainz.
Norris began his first lap of the session soon after, leaving Albon as the only driver to have rolled out of the garage.
Williams continued working on his car, replacing the gearbox, rear wing, floor, front wing, and the front left suspension following his Free Practice 1 crash.
The team confirmed that, when he did finally appear on track, it would be with the older spec rear wing.
Using a set of medium tyres, Verstappen was in a groove as he lowered the benchmark time to a 1:13.312s over the next few minutes, while Perez rose to second fastest.
The top of the timing screen changed at the 25-minute marker with Fernando Alonso logging a 1:12.786s.
His effort came on the soft compound rubber as attention switched to single-lap performance ahead of Qualifying on Saturday.
That saw Valtteri Bottas sit third, just 0.039s away from what Verstappen had mustered five minutes earlier.
Following the single lap runs, Sainz sat at the top of the timesheets from Alonso and Verstappen, the pace having dropped to 1:12.569s.
That lasted until 20 minutes remaining when Verstappen jumped to the top of the timesheets with a 1:12.462s.
Leclerc also improved, his lap 0.065s slower than the Red Bull driver.
Times were marginally quicker than the comparable session a year ago, though more condensed with the top seven inside the 1:13 bracket versus just two in 2022.
The red flag came out with 17 minutes remaining when Sainz found the wall exiting the Swimming Pool.
He’d clipped the barrier on the right-hander exiting the complex, breaking the front-right suspension.
That saw him skate on over the apex kerb at the left-hander that followed and into the wall below the pit lane.
The session was halted for six minutes before resuming, Albon one of those taking to the circuit.
He headed out on a set of soft tyres to record a 1:15.334s – some 1.1s down on team-mate Logan Sargeant’s best to that point.
He subsequently improved to a 1:14.515s and then a 1:14.217s as the chequered flag fell to rise above Sargeant at the foot of timesheets.
Oscar Piastri was 17th best with a 1:16.673 in a field that saw 10th to 17th covered by little more than 0.6s.
At the conclusion of the session, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed to offer drivers an opportunity to experience the revised double waved yellow flag rules.
They also had their first opportunity to perform a practice start, after Free Practice 1 finished under red flags.
Another hour of practice remains, starting at 12:30 local time (20:30 AEST) on Saturday.
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