Lewis Hamilton topped second practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the session was truncated to clean up a high-speed crash by Charles Leclerc crash.
The session had settled into a rhythm of long-run simulation with five minutes remaining in the hour when Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari through the rapid Turn 22 bend. The rear of his car stepped out as he navigated the left-hander, spinning the car backwards into the barriers in a 120mph smash.
Leclerc thankfully emerged unscathed but winded, though the car was substantially damaged, precipitating a long night for the Ferrari mechanics.
It marked the end of a complicated hour in Saudi Arabia. The first post-sunset session of the weekend gave teams and drivers a taste of not only the ambient conditions of the race but also the potential traffic problems for qualifying. The defining factor in the FP2 order was whether a driver managed to get in a clean lap uncompromised by slower cars, which proved very difficult around the narrow, high-speed track.
Hamilton emerged from the session fastest but not unscathed by the traffic. His quickest time of 1m29.018s was set on the medium tire in the first 20 minutes, and he couldn’t beat it with the soft compound after coming across a slow-moving Antonio Giovinazzi on his first flying lap.
Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was similarly affected, his 0.061s deficit on the medium tire a reflection of being unable to complete a clean lap on softs.
Championship leader Max Verstappen had two attempts at a soft-compound run after having his first attempt similarly compromised, and although he was able to improve on his medium-tire time to lap 0.195s off the pace, it was an only fractional gain. It left him an unrepresentative fourth behind Pierre Gasly, who navigated the traffic superbly to take third just 0.081s off the pace.
Verstappen then switched to his high-fuel runs, albeit with a shorter run than planned after attempting another flyer unsuccessfully, which was compromised further by the late red flag. All this left him short of Mercedes on long-run calculations.
Alpine slipped into fifth and sixth in the order, with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon around half a second off the pace.
Carlos Sainz led the way for Ferrari in seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who seemed comfortable in his AlphaTauri despite the half-second deficit to Gasly.
Sergio Perez found only a couple of tenths between the medium and soft compounds to end the morning seventh, with Red Bull Racing concerned it isn’t able to extract as much pace from the softer compounds as it is from the harder tires in the range. The crashed Leclerc completed the top 10.
McLaren teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were closely matched just outside the top 10 and fractionally ahead of Alfa Romeo duo Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel following another 0.4s behind.
George Russell was 17th for Williams after a brake-by-wire problem early in the hour, with Mick Schumacher putting his Haas 18th.
Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin completed the order in 19th and 20th.