Formula One: Verstappen completes convincing 'double top' in practice

AFP , Friday 2 Jun 2023

Defending two-time world champion Max Verstappen completed a convincing 'double top' for Red Bull in Friday's practice at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen
Red Bull s Dutch driver Max Verstappen takes part in the second free practice session of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on June 2, 2023 in Montmelo, on the outskirts of Barcelona. Photo: AFP


The championship leader was fastest in both sessions ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez in the opening run and then local hero two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin in the second.

Showing he felt well-adapted to the revised Circuit de Catalunya, which has introduced a faster layout this year, the Dutchman clocked a best lap in one minute and 13.907 seconds, beating Alonso by 0.17 seconds.

Nico Hulkenberg of Haas was third ahead of Perez, Esteban Ocon of Alpine and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who roused his home crowd with some intermittent fast laps.

George Russell was eighth for Mercedes ahead of Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly in the second Alpine on a day when most teams were evaluating upgrades to their cars.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton struggled in his Mercedes and finished the day in 11th place, but he was in good company as the top 12 were separated by less than six-tenths after a closely-contested day.

After a very warm morning and a period of heavy cloud cover, with rain threatening, the second session began in intermittent sunshine with Ocon setting the early pace before Verstappen and then Sainz took command.

The Spaniard clocked a 1:14.999 which he soon trimmed to move seven-tenths clear of the Dutchman before being overhauled by Leclerc as the leading drivers punched and counter-punched with fast laps.

Verstappen, notably, was running on Pirelli’s prototype mediums while the two updated Ferraris were on softs, but when he switched to a set of softs, the Red Bull man recorded a lap in 1:13.907, three-tenths quicker than Leclerc.

Most of the leading teams were also evaluating more upgrades – Aston Martin with a new front wing, Ferrari with new sidepods and more – in a bid to close the gap, but Verstappen appeared to be irresistibly fast on the revised Circuit de Catalunya.

As usual, the teams switched their focus from simulation of qualifying laps to longer runs after half an hour, by when Alonso had gone second ahead of Hulkenberg and Perez.

With a heavy fuel load, Verstappen lapped close to seven seconds slower than his fastest time while Perez remained in the pits for repairs before a late final flurry of action.

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