Max Verstappen ended Friday in Jeddah fastest of all, topping the timesheets at the end of FP2 for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, chased by Fernando Alonso.
Friday was the perfect way for Red Bull and Max Verstappen to start their weekend in Jeddah, the double Formula 1 Champion fastest in both practice sessions, and while Fernando Alonso, third fastest in the first session, improved in the afternoon, going second fastest.
Sergio Perez was third fastest in the #11 RB19 almost three tenths slower than his teammate as Alpine seemed to show improvement while Ferrari dropped down the timing screens.
Buildup towards FP2
There were not many surprises from FP1, as Red Bull continued to flex their muscles with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing first and second respectively.
Fernando Alonso showed he was the most probable challenger for the Bulls and a strong candidate for another podium in a row while Ferrari seem to have fallen a back with Mercedes chasing the Aston Martins instead.
Bearing in mind that FP1 track and weather conditions do not represent the qualifying and race conditions as much, FP2 should give a more precise idea on where the contenders stand in Jeddah.
As for upgrades, Red Bull brought a revised rear wing with revised endplates and beam wing, specific for the requirements of the circuit in Jeddah.
Ferrari have a revised front wing endplate, a revised floor edge as well as a track specific rear beam wing on their SF-23.
Mercedes have a low drag rear wing on their W14 with revised floor fences, while Alpine also have a revised rear beam wing, also to reduce drag.
On another note, FP1 showed that traffic will be an issue around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit with several drivers having close calls with slower cars.
As a wise, young Yuki Tsunoda once said:
✨ “It’s a traffic paradise” ✨#SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/euoG3f5lyS
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2023
Jeddah FP2 session highlights
With the session green lighted, none of the teams wasted time and sent their drivers out on track to make the most out of the significant one-hour session while Sergio Perez remained a bit longer in the Red Bull garage. He joined minutes later.
All the field was sporting a mix of Medium and Hard tyres at the beginning of the night practice session as the first rounds of timed laps painted a familiar picture, Max Verstappen fastest, Sergio Perez second and Fernando Alonso third early in FP2.
15 minutes into the session, traffic brought up yet another call, with Charles Leclerc almost collecting Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas in Turn 13, as the German was going along in leisurely pace.
Needless to say, Leclerc wasn’t impressed labeling the incident “a joke”.
Verstappen was complaining to his team about his headrest which is making him lying down too much, and also had a brush with the wall at the final corner.
Almost halfway into the session, the drivers bolted on the Soft tyres and went out for some qualifying runs, with Alonso running wide at Turn 22 while on his flying lap.
The Spaniard also had near miss with compatriot Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari.
Alonso tees up a very fast-looking lap but is caught out by the challenging Turn 22 😩#SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/odQ3zds3JP
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2023
With the first runs on the Softs done, Red Bull remained in the lead with Verstappen followed by Alonso then Perez in third.
Notably Alpine seem to be flirting with the top five with Esteban Ocon slotting in fourth midway in FP2, Pierre Gasly sixth.
The team were soon back on track with some runs on heavy fuel loads as they start to learn the tyres and how long they last in preparation for Sunday’s race strategy.
Leclerc had a scare with his clutch paddle while exiting the pits, the team through told him he was good to go. The last thing the Monegasque needs is another reliability problem.
As was the case during the race in Bahrain, Verstappen was complaining about the downshifts on his car being very bad.
The long runs showed that race pace between Ferrari and Red Bull is close, while Alonso seemed to be lagging behind the energy drinks outfit. In general the long run closed up the gaps between the teams.
How they finished
Max Verstappen clocked a 1:29.603 at the end of FP2, still well off the pole time registered by Sergio Perez back in 2022, a 1:28.200.
Fernando Alonso was closer to Verstappen in FP2, second fastest, 0.208s behind with Perez a further 0.091s down in third.
Showing some decent pace in FP2 were the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly fourth and sixth respectively. Ocon’s best time was a 1:30.039, over four tenths slower than Verstappen.
George Russell dragged his W14 into fifth fastest, 0.467s off the pace with Gasly 0.030s behind him.
Lance Stroll was almost three tenths off the pace of his teammate, his 1:30.110 good for seventh fastest, while Nico Hulkenberg went eighth fastest in the Haas, 0.071s behind the Canadian.
It was a dismal session for Ferrari both drivers not able to put a proper lap together, with Charles Leclerc ninth fastest over seven tenths away from Verstappen, while teammate Carlos Sainz rounded off the top ten, 0.251s behind his teammate.
McLaren remained out of the top ten, Lando Norris 12th fastest, while Oscar Piastri was down in 19th.
FP2 Official Results