Verstappen still on top but Aston and Alpine impress in second Saudi Arabian GP practice

Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Verstappen still on top but Aston and Alpine impress in second Saudi Arabian GP practice

Formula 1

Verstappen still on top but Aston and Alpine impress in second Saudi Arabian GP practice


Max Verstappen remained fastest in FP2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Fernando Alonso closed the gap while Alpine also impressed under the lights.

Fresh from setting the pace comfortably in FP1, Verstappen saw his advantage reduced by Alonso in the only representative practice session of the weekend as FP2 took place at the same time as qualifying and the race. Verstappen led the way with a 1m29.603s, beating Alonso’s soft-tire time by 0.208s, with Sergio Perez less than 0.1s further back in third place.

When it came to the long runs that followed, Red Bull didn’t enjoy a massive advantage either with Perez the quickest car — on medium tires — ahead of Verstappen who was complaining of gear shift issues running on the softs, and Alonso comparable to the championship leader.

Fourth overall was Esteban Ocon as both Alpine drivers showed impressive pace on both low and high fuel, with Ocon and Pierre Gasly separated by George Russell but all three within 0.5s of Verstappen’s best lap. That was the same margin the Red Bull driver had enjoyed over the entire field in the heat of FP1.

Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth respectively, the Haas driver with an eye-catching lap that was under 0.6s away from the latest time overall. Hulkenberg’s time also meant there were five different teams ahead of Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc in ninth and Carlos Sainz 10th.

Leclerc was three quarters of a second off Verstappen on low fuel but Ferrari was closer on the long run pace, although Leclerc twice asked if everything was fine with his power unit during his race simulation. The Monegasque already has a power unit penalty this weekend, and was told that there was nothing amiss on the data, responding that he thought it was “a big surge” that had caught his attention.

Lewis Hamilton was only 11th fastest and the final car within a second of Verstappen, struggling in the first sector in particular where he lost 0.6s to the Dutchman and 0.4s to teammate Russell on his best lap. That was despite Russell saying Mercedes needed to make some changes after his low-fuel runs.

A sign of how tricky the circuit is was the lowly position of the three rookie drivers, with Nyck de Vries, Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri only kept off the bottom of the timing screens by Valtteri Bottas at the end of what appeared to be a challenging day for Alfa Romeo. Even so, all 10 teams were within 1.2s of each other, showing how relative performance currently is across the field.

A number of drivers found themselves caught out by traffic at certain stages of the session, with sight lines still challenging around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit despite changes to improve visibility at certain corners. There was a near-miss after the checkered flag, too, when Sainz overtook Perez through the first sector but the Red Bull driver hadn’t seen the Ferrari coming and nearly turned into the side of Sainz’s car.

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