Valtteri Bottas completed a Friday clean sweep by topping second practice at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after Max Verstappen retired from the session with a drive problem.
The Finn set his quickest time of 1m15.551s on the medium compound early in the session, and though he undertook a subsequent three-lap qualifying simulation with the grippiest soft tire, he was unable to improve.
He was followed closely by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was able to fractionally improve on his medium-tire time with the softs, though only enough to close to within 0.01s.
But Verstappen — widely tipped as the victory favorite ahead of the weekend — didn’t figure near the top of the classification after retiring barely 10 minutes into the session with a suspected driveshaft problem. The Dutchman was lapping on the medium tire when he ran over some of the circuit’s aggressive curbing and his car lost drive. He radioed his team that “something snapped at the rear” and parked his RB16B by the side of the road.
There was some optimism that Verstappen would be able to return to the track later in the afternoon when the marshals delivered his stricken machine back to the garage in only a few minutes, but the problem was unable to be addressed in time for the end of the newly shortened 60-minute session.
Pierre Gasly impressed again for AlphaTauri. The Frenchman put his car — built only 10 miles down the road — third on the time sheet and only 0.078s off the pace with the soft compound despite concern he’d damaged the underside of his car running over some high curbs.
Ferrari was on track for a strong and unblemished showing for its first of two scheduled races in Italy this season until Charles Leclerc nosed into the barriers exiting Rivazza with three minutes remaining, ending the session prematurely under red flags.
🚩 RED FLAG: Session will not restart🚩
An unfortunate end to @Charles_Leclerc's session as the Monegasque driver hits the wall #ImolaGP 🇮🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/kVwdDOk31I
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 16, 2021
The Monegasque’s car sustained damage to its front wing and right-front corner but nothing more serious. Leclerc finished fifth behind teammate Carlos Sainz, who was fourth and 0.283s off the pace.
Sergio Perez put the lone Red Bull Racing machine sixth and 0.86s behind the benchmark, the Mexican burdened with the entirety of his new team’s FP2 program despite losing almost half of his morning practice session to a crash with Esteban Ocon.
AlphaTauri young gun Yuki Tsunoda finished seventh. The Japanese rookie’s AT02 was fitted with his first of two allowed new energy store and control electronics components between practice sessions after Honda discovered some concerning signs in the data from the morning. Teammate Gasly and Red Bull Racing’s Perez had the same Honda components replaced at the previous round in Bahrain.
Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, while Lance Stroll completed the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were 11th and 13th and split by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, the trio 1.2s adrift.
Verstappen finished 14th with five laps to his name ahead of Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin.
George Russell was 16th for Williams ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian having his quickest lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.
Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin finished 19th and 20th.