Formula 1 Racing

Verstappen completes Friday practice clean sweep

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Following FP1 before sundown, FP2 was run at nightfall in more representative conditions for qualifying and the race, the temperature floating around 26 degrees C for the start of the session.

Lance Stroll kicked off proceedings on the medium tyre with a 1m32.293s, but this was quickly felled by Carlos Sainz’s 1m31.080s as the cars flooded the circuit at the top of the session.

The Spaniard held the top of the timing boards for the opening five minutes, fending off Fernando Alonso’s 1m31.392s, but Sainz was soon overturned by Verstappen.

Once the Dutchman had logged a 1m30.801s, Stroll looked to be in with a chance of eclipsing his lap time after a sterling opening sector, but his Aston Martin team-mate Alonso prevailed with a 1m30.612s.

Sergio Perez then intervened and posted a 1m30.428s to bring the pace down, but Verstappen’s riposte was nearly 0.4s clear of his Red Bull team-mate. This put the reigning champion back in control for the end of the session’s first quarter, with Verstappen raising the bar with a 1m29.952s.

Once the early choices of medium and hard tyres were shed following the opening 20 minutes of laps, soft tyre running subsequently began in earnest as Alonso sought to topple Verstappen’s current headliner.

But his 1m29.985s on the first soft-tyre run in anger was just a smidgen shy, and Perez’s 1m29.902s on the same soft compound was enough to place the Mexican on top of the order.

Verstappen waited until later to do his own lap on softs, crossing the line at the half-hour mark with a 1m29.603s to put nearly 0.3s over Perez, but still had to withstand a late challenge from Alonso, who logged a 1m29.811s in another soft-shod effort.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

With the times set, the teams focused on their longer run plans for the final part of the session, effectively cementing another practice-headlining session for Verstappen, with Alonso and Perez figuring behind him.

Despite his ominous pace, Verstappen had grievances and complained that his “downshifts were really bad”, particularly at the final corner, finding latency in the switch between gears during his longer runs towards the end of the session.

Esteban Ocon was fourth fastest, quickest of those unable to transcend the 90-second barrier – his 1m30.039s just 0.03s clear of George Russell‘s effort for fifth.

Pierre Gasly ensured both Alpines factored in the top six with his 1m30.100s, one hundredth of a second…

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