Bottas and Hamilton stay top in FP2, Verstappen sidelined

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W12. 16.04.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola
ยฉ XPB 

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were once again in command of the timing screens at Imola for second practice ahead of the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

However it was a very brief session for Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull lost drive just ten minutes and five laps into the session, forcing him to sit out the rest of the afternoon.

Instead it was AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly who was the main challenge to Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc next best by the time the session ended early after Leclerc oversteered his Ferrari into the barriers at Rivazza.

The afternoon session had got off to a brisk start with Williams' George Russell first out followed by Esteban Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen. Within a few minutes everyone was on track with the exception of Nikita Mazepin, with the Haas mechanics needing more time to finish off the repairs following his accident at the end of FP1.

Ferrari took early command of the session with Charles Leclerc going top with a time of 1:17.076 on the soft compound, seven tenths ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz. On the medium compound, Valtteri Bottas then split the pair to go second just six thousandths of a second slower than the Monegasque.

Also on the mediums, Lewis Hamilton briefly went to the top ahead of Max Verstappen but Leclerc instantly responded with a time of 1:16.705s to regain the initiative. AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda was looking sprightly in the early stages and slotted into fifth ahead of Alpine's Estaban Ocon, with Lando Norris seventh for McLaren despite skipping through the gravel on his initial run.

The times continued to tumble with Hamilton soon quickest again with a time of 1:16.227s to go ahead of the latest efforts from Bottas, Sainz and Verstappen, but dipping a wheel into the gravel on the final corner in the process. Moments later Verstappen's next push lap ended prematurely with a driveshaft issue that forced him to pull over to the side of the track under a virtual safety car, his day effectively done.

Once the stricken Red Bull was cleared away the session quickly resumed, Bottas taking over at the top again with a time of 1:15.551s on the soft tyres. It was 0.010s quicker than Hamilton's best effort, but neither Mercedes was looking fully on top of the red walled compound in the cooler-than-expected conditions, and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly was able to get within 0.078s of the top time.

Sainz was also very much on the pace and within three tenths of Bottas' best lap, well ahead of Leclerc in fifth place followed by Perez, Tsunoda, Norris, Antonio Giovinazzi and Lance Stroll, leaving Ocon just outside the top ten ahead of an excellent effort from Williams' Nicholas Latifi that pipped Fernando Alonso to 12th and relegated the absent Verstappen to 14th.

After that attention turned to long distance simulations with heavier fuel loads, valuable fate for race day but not threatening to significantly change the in the final minutes, with the session ending early after a snap of oversteer resulted in Leclerc thumping his front wing into the barriers at Rivazza 2.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was a disappointing 18th after having his best laps deleted for exceeding track limits, while Haas were solidly last with Mick Schumacher convincingly faster than team mate Mazepin who completed just 16 laps after his late start to the session.,

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