Verstappen continues to set the pace in Spain FP2

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 02.06.2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
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Max Verstappen was quickest in second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, the Red Bull setting a time of 1:13.907s to finish comfortably quicker than Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

Nico Hulkenberg put in an unusually swift lap to end the day third fastest ahead of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, while Ferrari spent time on Pirelli test tyres leaving Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz P6 and P7.

George Russell was the quickest of the two Mercedes cars in eighth ahead of Lewis Hamilton who was 11th, while it was a quiet session for McLaren with Oscar Piastri 12th and Lando Norris only 14th when the chequered flag came out.

It had been an somewhat mixed first practice at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with teams spending time running on new Pirelli test tyres and encountering bouncing problems for the first time this season with many cars bottoming out, meaning teams had to go away and reassess ride heights and other settings for the afternoon session. Even so, the main question looming large was a familiar one to everyone this season: whether anyone could do anything about the Red Bull superiority, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez comfortably fastest in FP1 from Alpine's Esteban Ocon.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523.
02.06.2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Practice Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Nyck de Vries was first out on track for AlphaTauri with Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu close behind him when the lights went green. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz who was quick to try a lap on the soft tyres and set an early benchmark of 1:14.999s, six tenths ahead of his team mate Charles Leclerc on the same compound with Verstappen third after a shakedown on the Pirelli hard test tyre. Meanwhile Mercedes' George Russell and McLaren's Lando Norris were among those still muttering about their cars bottoming out. Even Leclerc was on to the pit wall with a plea: "Can you check the floor? I felt I lost a lot of rear on that lap."

It wasn't long before Verstappen was out on a set of medium tyres and on top by 0.031s from Sainz, with Fernando Alonso up to fourth ahead of Sergio Perez and de Vries slotting to six ahead of team mate Yuki Tsunoda. By now everyone was getting serious about undertaking their qualifying runs and had switched to soft tyres, enabling Verstappen to open up his lead at the top with a time of 1:13.907s putting him two tenths ahead of Haas' Nico Hulkenberg with Ocon now quicker than the two Ferraris. Lewis Hamilton's response looked super swift in the first sector but the pace of the Mercedes dropped off in the final sector leaving him just eighth quickest. Russell did a little better, popping up to sixth ahead of Bottas and Pierre Gasly.

Alonso then came out to play and once again proved the only significant rival to Verstappen, the Aston Martin going second by almost two tenths of a second to move ahead of Hulkenberg. Although the drivers continued to run on the soft tyres, the Ferrari drivers were soon back on the test tyres and overall the focus moved to longer distance runs. It helped put some rubber down on the track and to checked for degradation on the new configuration circuit with its remodelled final corners. In addition some drivers including Ocon were having issues with their power unit energy retrieval settings kicking in at the wrong point. No big problem, and easily fixed in the pit lane, so it was all part of general admin work for Friday, but certainly no one was sitting things out with all 20 cars hard at work to the finish.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-23.
02.06.2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Practice Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

There had been no significant incidents, although Oscar Piastri had been fortunate to survive a big mid-session oversteer moment in turn 10 that left him sliding all over the track. There was also a near-miss between Hulkenberg and Williams' Logan Sargeant in turn 1 in the closing minutes, but fortunately actual contact between the pair was avoided.

Despite some early concerns about rain in the area, there had been no problem with precipitation during the session with the exception of a brief report from Russell about drops of rain falling in turn 9 in the final quarter of an hour. It didn't amount to anything before the chequered flag came out to end the day's track activity, with the drivers carrying out their post-session practice starts to wrap things up.

It all meant that Verstappen's time was good enough to keep him top from Alonso and Hulkenberg, followed by Perez and Ocon with Leclerc having moved ahead of Sainz followed by Russell, Bottas and Gasly pushing Hamilton out of the top ten. Despite his oversteer moment, Piastri was still 12th quickest at the end followed by Zhou, Norris, Kevin Magnussen, de Vries and Tsunoda. Lance Stroll was distinctly off the pace in 18th, quicker only than the two Williams cars of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

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