Hamilton tops FP2 as Mercedes smashes its rivals in race simulation

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Mercedes flexed its muscles in the afternoon session for the Spanish Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton edging his team mate Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull's duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez ended up only ninth and tenth fastest respectively.

Drivers were keen to get their afternoon work underway after the changes to Friday’s schedule which saw the length of the first two practices being cut to just 60 minutes. The majority of the drivers rolled on to the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit on the yellow-banded Medium compound with which only the Ferrari duo ran during the first practice.

Mercedes laid down the benchmark on the C2 compound with Bottas registering the fastest time with a 1m18.309, a tenth faster than his team mate Hamilton. Their arch rival Verstappen only managed a 1m18.785 which was over three tenths of a second slower than the Mercedes benchmark.

When drivers started to head back on to the modified Barcelona track on the red-banded soft compound, times started to tumble. However, Mercedes found it difficult again to extract the best grip from the softest compound available this weekend, but it was still enough for Lewis Hamilton to end up atop, just beating his team mate.

Verstappen had a very untidy lap on his fresh set of soft tyres and ultimately ended up ninth. On his first hot lap on the C3 compound, the Dutchman locked up into Turn 1 and ran very wide at Turn 10, exceeding track limits.

Despite his struggles during qualifying simulation, the 23-year-old added: “Overall I think we actually had quite a good day and the car seems pretty competitive. I was a little bit wide at Turn 10 on my push lap in FP2 but there is nothing shocking to report from either session.

“The track changes to Turn 10 seem better over one lap when you are pushing. It is a bit faster and more enjoyable to drive, but for overtaking I think it could be worse."

After their eye-catching showing at last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Alpine carried its form from Portimao to Barcelona. Esteban Ocon set a lap time of 1m18.466, ending up in P4 while two-time world champion Fernando Alonso finished just a spot behind, posting a time of 1m18.518.

McLaren, who have brought a new front wing and floor to Barcelona, endured a difficult afternoon session. Lando Norris could only managed the 12th best time after running wide at several corners on his hot lap. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 0.1s slower down in 15th. However, there is no need for panic for McLaren as the Woking-based team started their weekends at Imola and Portimao in a similarly low-key fashion.

Aston Martin has completed its best Friday so far this season with Sebastian Vettel ending up eleventh fastest and his team mate Lance Stroll registering the 14th fastest time.

Commenting on the opening day at Barcelona, Vettel said: “I think it was our best Friday of the year so far: plenty of laps for Lance and me, and we have done some important homework ahead of the race. I felt happy today and it was my opportunity to try the new parts, which are a step forward.

“It is hard to say exactly where we will be tomorrow in a very close midfield competition, but we will try to find a bit more tonight to squeeze a few more tenths of performance.”

Ferrari’s promising Friday pace saw Charles Leclerc finish fifth in FP1 and third in FP2 with his team mate Carlos Sainz ending the afternoon session in eighth position, half a second down on Hamilton’s benchmark.

After the session, Leclerc said: “It was a very good day, we had a good day, a clean day, I changed a little bit my approach compared to Portimao – taking it a lot more step-by-step – and I’m just driving a lot better and in a better place with the car, so hopefully we can keep on building on that strong first day for tomorrow, as tomorrow will be important obviously, with qualifying, especially on this track.

During the closing stages of the practice session, drivers completed race run simulations. The Mercedes duo stood out with their pace, with particularly Lewis Hamilton dictating eye-catching pace on higher fuel loads.

144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:18.17032
277Valtteri BottasMercedes1:18.309+0.139s31
316Charles LeclercFerrari1:18.335+0.165s28
431Esteban OconAlpine Renault1:18.466+0.296s29
514Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault1:18.518+0.348s30
610Pierre GaslyAlphatauri Honda1:18.593+0.423s32
722Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda1:18.619+0.449s30
855Carlos SainzFerrari1:18.674+0.504s30
933Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda1:18.785+0.615s26
1011Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda1:18.918+0.748s23
115Sebastian VettelAston Martin Mercedes1:18.947+0.777s30
124Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes1:19.092+0.922s28
1399Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:19.122+0.952s29
1418Lance StrollAston Martin Mercedes1:19.134+0.964s29
153Daniel RicciardoMclaren Mercedes1:19.195+1.025s28
167Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:19.213+1.043s30
1763George RussellWilliams Mercedes1:19.957+1.787s29
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes1:20.046+1.876s26
1947Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari1:20.326+2.156s30
209Nikita MazepinHaas Ferrari1:20.753+2.583s27