Mercedes tops FP1, Verstappen fastest in FP2
Mercedes unexpectedly topped the first free practice session. Then, Max Verstappen set the tone for FP2 and finished ahead of the two Ferraris.
The first laps weren’t easy for the drivers, as they had to adapt to a track on which Formula 1 has only raced once.
Many struggled under braking or with traction, especially in the tight second sector or at turn 17.
Red Bull, of course, was still the fastest car, with a close battle between Ferrari (which brought a brand-new floor), Aston Martin, and Mercedes, with the latter having issues with the steering wheel on George Russell’s car.
Halfway through the session, Nico Hulkenberg was leading the field. He had already gone out with soft tires as well as his teammate, who was 3rd. Max Verstappen was second on the hards.
Then, both Red Bulls fitted the soft tires and the Dutchman went first fastest, even though he made a few mistakes during his lap. His teammate went only third fastest, 0.5 seconds behind Verstappen.
The session was red-flagged as Nico Hulkenberg spun and hit the wall in the first sector.
At the end of the session, the two Mercedes topped the session, with Russel P1 and Hamilton P2. They used new tires, and they found the track in its best condition. Charles Leclerc was third, Verstappen fourth, and Sainz fifth. Gasly, Alonso, Stroll, Hulkenberg, and Ocon completed the top 10.
The session started with another scary moment for Haas. Kevin Magnussen almost hit the wall in the tight section before the last long straight. Luckily for him, he didn't damage the car.
As the session went on, the two McLarens topped the charts, while Verstappen was still in the box since he had issues with the headrest. Then, Sainz and Alonso got up to P2 and P3. Leclerc was also on a fast lap, but he messed up turn 17. Verstappen later went first fastest and Alexander Albon put his Williams in P4. Finally, Leclerc put his lap together and was just 0.143 seconds behind Verstappen.
Both Russell and Hamilton were fighting with their car, both for traction and stability while turning. It didn't seem to be the perfect car to drive.
In the last part of the session, the teams focused on race pace simulation to prepare for the race on Sunday.
With 10 minutes to go, Leclerc went straight into the wall at turn 7. The session was red-flagged as his car was stuck into the wall.
Verstappen topped the session, with Sainz and Leclerc behind. Perez, Alonso, Norris, Hamilton, Stroll, Ocon, and Albon completed the top 10.