Max Verstappen showed no ill effects from an upset stomach on Friday as he topped Fernando Alonso twice for Red Bull in Friday’s second free practice session at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The reigning double world champion shook off the stomach upset that had delayed his arrival in Jeddah by 24 hours and set a best lap of one minute and 29.603 seconds to overtake double champion Alonso’s Aston Martin by 0.208 seconds.
Sergio Perez finished third in the second Red Bull ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Mercedes’ George Russell and Pierre Gasly in the second Alpine.
“I think we had a positive day, but I think there are still some things we can improve on,” said Verstappen.
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“The downshifting is just fine tuning. Things we do all the time,” he added.
Perez revealed that he had been suffering from mechanical problems.
“Hopefully we can sort that out for tomorrow,” he said.
“And it will give us more pace so I can better assess where this car is. Today it was contradictory, it was difficult to read properly.
“We seem to be strong, but the competition is there as expected.”
Alonso’s Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll finished seventh, ahead of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, both of whom featured new powerplants.
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Leclerc already has a 10-place penalty for Sunday’s race for taking a third electronic control unit of the season.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finished 11th for Mercedes, with a best lap of 1:30.599, a second slower than Verstappen, on the day he announced he was no longer working with his longtime performance coach Angela Cullen.
Alonso’s performance confirmed his pace this year after a strong showing when he finished third in the season-opening race in Bahrain, but it was Verstappen who set the pace with some ease.
After Verstappen’s early dominance in a Red Bull one-two in opening practice, the second session started in cooler conditions, with the air temperature dropping to 25 degrees and the track down from 44 to 31.
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Stroll was the first man out, Sainz the early pacesetter, but only for five minutes before the world champion went ahead again, only for Alonso, who answered two tenths quicker.
– Leclerc unharmed –
The two medium-sized Red Bulls reacted with renewed emotion. Verstappen 1:29.952 ahead of Perez until Alonso on softs separated them again. His Aston Martin appeared to be the only car capable of fighting with them.
And then Perez clocked a 1:29.902 as last year’s polesitter Leclerc emerged unscathed from a close touch with Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas.
The close duel at the top continued, with the Red Bulls just ahead of Alonso and then two tenths down on the group that was led by Hülkenberg and Gasly after half an hour.
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The top three were separated by 0.012s before Verstappen again raised the bar in 1’29.603 after switching to softs for a brief simulation of what could be in store for him in Saturday’s qualifying.
At this point, Russell climbed up to fourth for Mercedes, but Hamilton was eleventh.
“We need to make some big changes,” Russell said sternly. “Yes, copy,” replied his pit wall, apparently sensitive to the team’s need for a changed approach to reverse his slump.
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(This article was not edited by News18 staff and is published by a syndicated news outlet feed.)
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