Verstappen sweeps Friday practice as Turkey stays tricky

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Verstappen sweeps Friday practice as Turkey stays tricky

Formula 1

Verstappen sweeps Friday practice as Turkey stays tricky

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Max Verstappen consolidated his place at the top of the time sheet in a greasy afternoon practice session at the Turkish Grand Prix.

The Dutchman topped FP1 earlier in the day when the freshly laid tarmac was treacherously slippery, but with more rubber laid into the Istanbul Park circuit he was able to lower the bar to a more representative 1m28.330s.

He was 0.4s quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and almost 0.6s quicker than Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas, the last title challenger still in contention to overhaul championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who was a further 0.3s adrift in fourth.

Alex Albon completed the top five for Red Bull Racing, the Thai driver a full second adrift of teammate Verstappen despite having led more much of the first half of the session.

Verstappen’s time was almost seven seconds quicker than his best effort of the morning session but still three seconds slower than pole at the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix, Formula 1’s last race in Istanbul. The 2020 cars, more powerful and more heavily laden with downforce, are expected to be markedly faster than the machines that tackled the track almost a decade ago.

The time disparity spoke to the grip still to be found in the new surface, as was visibly evident through the session as cars struggled to find purchase on all three tire compounds.

With track temperatures stubbornly below 70 degrees throughout thanks to intermittent cloud cover, the hard tire struggled with warm-up and offered little grip once up to temperature.

But the soft tire appeared to defy durability concerns around the punishing layout in the cooler conditions. Despite drivers complaining of graining early in their stints, the rubber cleaned up with a little persistence and enabled progressively faster lap times.

Verstappen’s best came on his eighth tour, while Leclerc managed his fastest time on his 14th lap.

AlphaTauri subsequently had both its drivers use the soft tire for their race simulations after long runs on the hard compound, with Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly finishing sixth and seventh in the order, 1.3s and 1.6s off the pace respectively.

Sebastian Vettel was eighth for Ferrari, having spent the latter part of his session focusing on the medium tire preferred by the front-running teams. He was 1.6s off Verstappen’s best time.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Lando Norris completed the top 10, 1.9s and 2.5s off the pace respectively. Norris was the only driver other than the AlphaTauri teammates to run extensively on the hard compound.

Sergio Perez was 11th for Racing Point ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Carlos Sainz was 14th for McLaren ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault and Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa.

George Russell, who will start at the back of the grid with power unit penalties, completed the longest single stint on the medium tires, eschewing the soft until late in the session. He ended the day 17th ahead of Haas pair Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Nicholas Latifi was last for Williams and 5.1s off the pace.

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