Austin FP2: Perez fastest, Mercedes sandbagging

sergio perez FP2 Austin

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez topped the time screens at the end of the second free practice on the opening day of the United States Grand Prix after Mercedes dominated FP1 earlier in the day at Circuit of the Americas.

The afternoon session was packed with testosterone with numerous incidents and niggles, with title contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton scuffling during the session much to the Red Bull driver’s chagrin, calling the Mercedes driver an “idiot” and ‘flipping the bird’ at his rival before being told to calm down from his pit wall.

The needle in this chapter of the 2021 Formula 1 title battle has started early, with Verstappen getting further wound up when his two attempts at fast laps were thwarted by traffic. He ended the session eighth and very annoyed.

Behind Perez, McLaren’s precocious Lando Norris was second best, a couple of tenths shy of the top time and the same gap to his teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fifth.

The Mercedes duo, who were on another planet in the first session of the day, were next up with Hamilton third and Valtteri Bottas fourth, the earlier pace was hidden for now suggesting the World Champs revealed their formidable hand in FP1 a tad too early.

Hence Verstappen’s anger and frustration? Where did that midday pace come from? Were Merc sandbagging in FP2? All to be revealed in qualifying tomorrow!

Consider that Bottas best time in FP1 was 1:34.874, which was faster than Perez’s FP2 effort. While most of the top ten found substantial pace (Perez and Norris found over a second between sessions) the Mercedes pair were slower. Proper old-school sand-bagging.

It was a bittersweet day for Aston Martin with Sebastian Vettel set for an engine penalty, while Lance Stroll found the groove in Austin to end the day sixth fastest while his teammate was down in 15th.

Both Ferrari drivers were faster in the afternoon session than they were earlier in the day, but did not find as much pace as the teams ahead (bar Mercedes as explained above) with Charles Leclerc ending the day seventh and Carlos Sainz in ninth.

Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top ten for Alfa Romeo.

Both Alpines were out of the top ten with Hungarian Grand Prix winner Esteban Ocon 11th and Fernando Alonso 13th, the French cars lacking well over a second on the benchmark pace. The veteran Spaniard recovered from technical issues that put him on the back foot from early in FP1 but then crashed in FP2 to end a miserable day for him.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was also out of sorts, ending the day 12th, 1.3 seconds down on Perez but almost a second up on teammate Yuki Tsunoda in 16th.

Austin FP2 Lap Times

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