Valtteri Bottas topped both sessions ahead of Lewis Hamilton while title rivals Red Bull had a Friday to forget. Pierre Gasly starred with a stunning 3rd in FP2.
Front of the pack
It was a fine start to the weekend for Mercedes with an encouraging 1-2 in both of the Friday practice sessions. After failing to impress in Bahrain, Bottas made good ground ahead of team-mate Hamilton, but only by the finest of margins. Hamilton trailed by 0.041s in FP1 and only 0.010s in FP2.
Red Bull came into the weekend as favourites but were far from dominating the sessions. Verstappen was tantilisingly close to Bottas in FP1, only 0.058s adrift. However, this unravelled in FP2 as his Red Bull retired early into the session, leaving the Dutchman a lowly 14th place. It was not smooth sailing for Perez either, The Mexican had a troubled Friday, bringing out the red flags in FP1. He suffered a puncture after contact with Ocon and his stricken Red Bull had to be collected by crane. In FP2, he had an incident free session, but could only get within 0.860s of Bottas’ time, leaving him 6th.
The midfield is again incredibly tight, with Alpha Tauri and Ferrari seemingly leading the way. Gasly impressed with 5th and 3rd place finishes, while rookie team-mate Tsunoda recovered from a difficult first session to finish 7th in FP2.
Just behind were the remarkably consistent Ferraris. Leclerc finished 4th and 5th while Sainz improved from 6th to 4th. Yet, there are still troubles to be found with the Italian squad as Leclerc ended FP2 early, spearing his SF21 into the barriers on the last corner.
McLaren were next, but were not particularly happy with their session. Norris climbed from 13th to 8th, while Ricciardo fell from 10th to 18th. It is not yet known where specifically the Papaya team are struggling.
It was a similarly unconvincing session from Alpine. Ocon made headlines with his incident with Perez, but this led to a 17th placed finish. He improved in FP2, but only to 11th. Alonso finished a respectable 7th in this first session, but fell back to 13th in the second session.
Finally, Aston Martin were not able to replicate their initial form in Bahrain, Stroll outperformed Vettel with 8th and 10th placed finishs. It was a torrid session for the German, with a 14th placed finish followed by an equally unimpressive 15th.
At the back
Latifi was flying in the Williams, taking an encouraging 9th placed finish in FP1. This was later backed up with a strong 12th in FP2. Unusuallly, Russell was not able to get the measure of his team-mate, but was able to keep within range. The Briton finished 11th and 16th in the two sessions.
Giovinazzi was also able to best his more experienced team-mate improving from 15th to a superb 9th placed finish. Raikkonen started strong with 12th, but fell back to 17th.
Finally, it was another awful day for the Haas team. Schumacher was able to keep his car on the track, but could only manage two 19th placed finishes. Meanwhile, Mazepin spun twice in the first session, bringing out the red flags and fell from 18th to 20th over the two sessions.
A shortened Friday practice gives significantly less time for the teams to prepare, however, with rain scheduled, all the preparation so far could mean absolutley nothing. Not great for teams or drivers, but a superb prospect for fans.
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