Formula 1

Bottas heads FP2 Mercedes 1-2, Verstappen hits trouble

The second one-hour session of Friday at Imola featured a number of unusual developments, as the Mercedes drivers did not find major gains using the soft tyres on their mid-session qualifying simulation runs, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc actually set FP2’s best time, but had it deleted for a track limits offence.

Leclerc then brought the session to an early end when he crashed at the second Rivazza corner in final minutes.

Much like in the day’s opening session, the first 15 minutes of the session were very busy, with several drivers enjoying time at the top of the standings.

George Russell led the pack out and duly set the opening lap of FP2 at 1m22.939s, which was soon bettered by Kimi Raikkonen’s 1m20.118s.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Leclerc brought the P1 benchmark into the 1m17s bracket, with the latter’s 1m17.076s taking him to the top of the times as he followed his team-mate around the 3-mile track.

Both Ferrari drivers were running the medium tyres – the same rubber Hamilton used to go fastest approaching the end of the opening 10 minutes of FP2 on a 1m16.940s.

Leclerc was able to get back ahead as his medium tyre run continued, but he lost what was then his best time for running too wide through the Piratella corner at the top of the track’s steep hill in the second sector.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21, gets out of his car after going off

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Just after this, Bottas took first place on a 1m16.468s before Hamilton wrestled it back with a 1m16.227s, as the majority of the pack continued to use the medium tyres.

Bottas improved his best effort and the fastest time overall to a 1m15.551s with nearly 15 minutes completed and this time ended up as the best lap of FP2.

After a short lull in action at this point in proceedings, the two Ferrari cars appeared on the medium tyres, which Leclerc used to set a 1m15.367s – but he lost this time as well for the same infraction at Piratella.

The Mercedes drivers were also sent out on the softs for a series of qualifying simulation runs, but despite appearing to be pushing hard, neither made the improvements expected with the change to the red-walled rubber.

Bottas never bettered his best times on the mediums, and although Hamilton did he still wound up 0.010s slower than his team-mate’s best time on the harder tyres.

Pierre Gasly used the softs to slot in ahead of Sainz and Leclerc, who finished with an official best time of 1m16.371s – a subsequent legal lap following his second time being deleted, that was set on the soft tyres.

Leclerc’s crash occurred with 56 minutes completed when he lost the rear of his Ferrari as he ran along the kerbs between the two Rivazza turns, the car swinging around as he turned in for the second left-hander.

He managed to catch the rear but the correction caused Leclerc to spear off the track and hit the wall, knocking off the right front wheel.

Sergio Perez took sixth for Red Bull, which had a low-key session after Verstappen’s early stoppage.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen had looked to be matching Mercedes’ early session times on the mediums, but as he exited Rivazza on a lap at the end of the opening 10 minutes he reported “something snapped on the rear” – a suspected driveshaft issue – and he pulled over at the end of the pitlane exit.

Although Verstappen’s car was returned to the Red Bull garage just past the half-way point, he did not return.

Yuki Tsunoda finished seventh in the second AlphaTauri car, with Lando Norris, who had a trip through the gravel at Tamburello early in the session, ending up in eighth.

Antonio Giovinazzi was ninth for Alfa Romeo, with Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10 for Aston Martin ahead of the Alpine pair Esteban Ocon – straight out behind Russell at the session’s start following his clash with Perez in FP1 – and Fernando Alonso.

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