Breaking News

Report | Verstappen tops FP2 as Ferrari finish in the midfield

Report | Verstappen tops FP2 as Ferrari finish in the midfield

17 March - 18:00

Max Verstappen has completed the Friday double by topping both FP1 and FP2 ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Dutchman, who wasn't in the paddock on Thursday due to a stomach bug, seemed to be at one with the car. He looks like a very safe bet for the rest of the weekend, but Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso appeared to be his closest competitor again with P2. The Spanish driver had more pace in the car during the 60 minutes than what was shown on the leaderboard.

The times at the top of the leaderboard are a little bit misleading. Verstappen set his fastest soft lap on four-lap old tyres. Alonso had more pace as well due to a mistake on his first soft tyre lap and then getting caught by his fellow countryman Carlos Sainz. Sainz accidentally blocked him which was a common theme for all drivers during the session. 

Question marks loom around Ferrari who failed to advance further than ninth. Mercedes sat in their now regular positions with George Russell around half a second down on the quickest driver. Lewis Hamilton was behind the Ferrari drivers in 11th, a full second down on Verstappen. On the other hand, Alpine had a brilliant session with both drivers inside the top six. 

During the long runs, Verstappen reported some slow downshifts. Earlier in the day, Perez received a new gearbox. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc raised some concerns over his new engine. 

Lights out

Almost all drivers were straight out onto the track as they got to experience conditions that are best relative to qualifying and Sunday's Grand Prix for the first time. Under the floodlights, the track temperatures were around 15c lower than FP1. Mercedes applied some set-up changes to George Russell meaning he was slightly delayed coming out of the pits, but not significantly. The Ferraris had some flow-vis paint on the rear wing that they're introducing this weekend. 

Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso all spent a chunk of time at the top of the leaderboard, but Verstappen soon took control of the proceedings. After the first ten minutes, he kept on going purple lap after lap and build up a buffer of five-tenths on his teammate. This was extended to a full second on the Ferrari drivers after the first 20 minutes. That concluded the quickest laps on the medium tyre. 

Aston Martin put Alonso on the soft tyres first. The Spanish driver ran almost half a second faster than Verstappen's best medium tyre lap but ran wide at the start of sector three. Alonso almost matched Verstappen's time on the lap with the mistake. The two-time World Champion lost his second-fastest push lap because Sainz blocked up accidentally. It was a similar story for Verstappen who got caught out by a double yellow flag. The Dutchman set his quickest time on four-lap old soft tyres. 

As usual, drivers started race simulations with heavy full in the second half of the session. The soft tyre was the common choice during this suggesting most teams want to start the race on the soft tyres.  

Video player

More videos