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FP2: Hamilton completes Friday double as Gasly goes faster than Verstappen

FP2: Hamilton completes Friday double as Gasly goes faster than Verstappen

03-12-2021 17:59 Last update: 18:02

Lewis Hamilton has completed the Friday double by topping FP2. Valtteri Bottas almost matched his teammate to ensure that Mercedes had a one-two in Saudi Arabia. Max Verstappen failed to go faster than his former teammate Pierre Gasly [P3] on the weekend the Dutchman could become World Champion. 

Hamilton has now topped both sessions in the first Formula 1 weekend in Saudi Arabia. The circuit is fast and furious, and those who gained confidence early will reap the rewards in qualifying. Mercedes seem to be in a better place than Red Bull during this penultimate race weekend in 2021. But the season has already demonstrated that it can change suddenly overnight. 

Sergio Perez performed better in the second practice session, but the Mexican was still way behind the top three drivers suggesting that Verstappen will be alone in his fight against Mercedes this weekend. 

In the battle for third place in the constructors, Ferrari seem to have the upper hand over their rivals, McLaren. After securing a podium last time out in Qatar, Alpine seem set for another strong weekend, as do AlphaTauri after Pierre Gasly breached the top three. 

The session was relatively incident-free in terms of red flags and yellow flags. The yellow flag only made a brief appearance for a Nikita Mazepin spin in sector one. The red flag made its first appearance of the weekend in the final five minutes of the session as Leclerc lost control and hit the barrier very hard. Traffic seemed to be a major issue in terms of ruining laps and safety concerns with the blind corners. 

Under the lights

With the floodlights on, the track conditions in FP2 best replicated those that will feature in qualifying and the Grand Prix on Sunday. As a result, the track became busy almost immediately as drivers looked to gather as much useful data as possible with Formula 1 making its first trip to Jeddah. 

As he did in FP1 earlier in the day, Verstappen took control of the session early on and continued to raise the bar in subsequent laps. The two Ferrari drivers sat inside the top three places after the first 15 minutes, providing McLaren with some headaches. Red Bull junior driver Yuki Tsunoda spent a brief period of time at the top of the timesheet before Verstappen regained his P1. 

At the 20 minute mark, Hamilton put on a fresh set of medium tyres and set the fastest time in the session: 1:29.018. His teammate Bottas joined him in the top two. With all drivers on qualifying simulations, traffic became an issue and disrupted many fastest laps. The blind corners also meant that those on fast laps didn't always see the traffic until the last moment.

Red Bull Racing wanted to put their Dutch driver onto long runs, but Verstappen opted to stay on qualifying simulations as he felt that is more important than the race. He completed one extra lap in free air but perhaps crucially on older tyres. He didn't manage to beat his former teammate Pierre Gasly.

The session ended under red flag conditions following a big shunt from Charles Leclerc. Leclerc walked out of his Ferrari car. 

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