Max Verstappen was fastest again in the second practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Fernando Alonso split the two Red Bulls at the top of the times.
The reigning world champion’s best time of a 1’29.603 was two tenths of a second quicker than the Aston Martin driver, who in turn was just under a tenth faster than the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
The second session of the day is expected to be the more representative of the two, due to taking place in cooler temperatures under the lights as qualifying and the race will both be. As the session began Alonso was informed wind speeds around the circuit were around half what they has been in the opening hour of practice.
The two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc were the session’s early pace setters, going quickest on medium tyres ahead of Alonso’s Aston Martin. But Verstappen soon displaced them at the top, setting a 1’30.801 to go fastest of all, before he was replaced by Alonso who went quickest by almost two tenths.
After causing drivers challenges in the opening session, the tightened turn 22 caught out Yuki Tsunoda early on, the AlphaTauri driver appearing to clip the barrier at the apex on one of his early times laps. Verstappen improved to retake the top spot in the session but only after lightly brushing the wall on the exit of the final corner, while Alonso had to abandon a fast lap attempt by running wide at turn 22.
When Perez switched to soft tyres in his Red Bull he jumped to the top with a 1’29.902, exactly half a second quicker than his team mate. Verstappen’s first attempt on softs was thwarted by yellow flags at turn 16, which were frustratingly rescinded soon after they were shown. However, his second attempt was comfortably quick enough to return him to the top by three tenths over his team mate, before Alonso improved to relegate Perez into second.
As usual, the second half of the hour was dedicated to long runs, with Alonso, Perez and the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton venturing out on medium compound tyres, while Verstappen and Lance Stroll opted to run on soft tyres. With all cars focused on high fuel race runs, there were no major improvements in the timings over this final phase.
When the chequered flag flew it ensured Verstappen finished Friday as the quickest driver in both sessions. Behind Alonso split the two Red Bulls at the top of the times, while Esteban Ocon ended the session in fourth ahead of Russell’s…
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