Valtteri Bottas was fastest again for Mercedes in a hot second practice session for the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello. Bottas took the top spot from teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 0.207s.
Red Bull Racing teammates Max Verstappen and Alex Albon followed, although while Verstappen was only 0.039s behind Hamilton. Albon, though, was almost a full second adrift of Bottas’s benchmark.
Drivers acclimatized to the physically demanding Mugello circuit in warm conditions, with the ambient hovering at around 85 degrees F and track temperature peaking at more than 105. The track’s rapid bends and abrasive surface already put high strain on the tires, but the weather made practice only more strenuous for the Pirelli rubber, with virtually every driver forced to manage high tire temperatures to avoid debilitating thermal degradation.
The soft tires looked particularly brittle, with no one able to extract more than one flying lap from the red-marked rubber, and degradation generally puts the race in likely two-stop territory.
The battle for best of the rest fell to Renault at the end of free practice, with teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon closely matched in fifth and sixth.
Sergio Perez was seventh after a messy session. The Mexican, who Racing Point confirmed this week would not continue racing for the team next season, caused a red flag in the final 15 minutes by colliding with Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo on his way out of the pits.
Perez attempted to hold the inside line at the first turn from Raikkonen, who turned in on the normal racing line. They touched, sending the Alfa Romeo spinning into the gravel and damaging the Racing Point’s front wing, the debris from which caused a brief suspension. The stewards are investigating the incident.
Pierre Gasly was eighth for AlphaTauri ahead of Raikkonen, the highest-placed Ferrari-engined driver, and factory Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in 10th.
Leclerc and teammate Sebastian Vettel, who ended the session 12th — Racing Point’s Lance Stroll split them in 11th — both spun at Correntaio, the former mid-corner and the latter on exit heading into Biondetti. Vettel’s afternoon then ended on track, with his engine cutting out on his in-lap as the checkered flag flew for the session.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were 13th and 14th on a difficult afternoon for McLaren. Sainz was more than 1.6s off the pace but likely would have found more time had he not been hampered by traffic and had his exit from the final corner not been affected by a moment of oversteer onto the gravel.
Norris had a worse time of it, though, making himself the first driver to crash this weekend with an off at Poggio Secco. The Englishman ran wide on exit and lost control of his car as he dipped two wheels onto the gravel, spinning him towards the barrier.
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Norris’s car was undamaged bar the loss of its front wing, but he was beached and forced to retire from the session, and a red flag was required to collect his abandoned machine.
Daniil Kvyat was 15th ahead of George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kevin Magnussen.
Romain Grosjean was last in the order after a Ferrari power unit problem forced him back to the Haas garages after only five laps. The Frenchman reported a strange noise emanating from his turbocharger and noted his battery wasn’t charging, symptoms of what was determined to be an electronics problem.