Barcelona FP2: Verstappen fastest, but the gap has closed

Barcelona FP2: Verstappen fastest, but the gap has closed

Barcelona FP2: Verstappen fastest, but the gap has closed

Max Verstappen remained on top at the end of FP2 for the 2023 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, but his advantage over the his rivals considerably less.

Verstappen was almost eight tenths of a second faster than Sergio Perez in the first practice, but FP2 saw the Dutchman’s advantage over second-placed Fernando Alonso go down to 0.170s.

Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise third for Haas, after a decent effort from the German saw him clock a lap time of 1:14.177, almost three tenths off the pace.

Alpine continued their strong form as both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly featured in the top ten, fourth and tenth respectively.

Buildup towards FP2

Verstappen showed some ominous pace in FP1 in Barcelona, eight tenths faster than teammate Perez, as it seems to be another weekend when the Bulls will be running away with it.

Ocon showed some promise for Alpine going third fastest, Ferrari’s form was inconclusive as Carlos Sainz ran the updated SF-23 in the first practice to go ninth fastest (Charles Leclerc was running the old spec), while Alonso did not go any faster than sixth, almost one second slower than Verstappen.

Mercedes did not seem to have dialed their updated W14 yet, with George Russell tenth fastest and Lewis Hamilton out of the top ten.

Looking to FP2, can Aston Martin bounce back? That would be a necessity of Alonso would like to challenge for the win and achieve his 33rd grand prix victory in front of his adoring fans.

What of Mercedes? They said Barcelona will/will not validate their new direction with the W14. Will Barcelona mark the start of their return to the top?

As for Ferrari, can they get their revised SF-23 up to speed?

Barcelona FP2 session highlights

The clear conditions followed on from the first practice, with FP2 starting as the ambient temperature dropping 1 degree from 25 to 24 degrees. The track temperature, however, was considerably lower, 37 degrees in the afternoon, compared to 42 degrees earlier.

Russell’s issues with his car seemed to continue in FP2, as he reported more bottoming early on in the one-hour session.

Later, the Briton had a close moment with McLaren’s Piastri, who was on the racing line as the #63 Mercedes was on a hot lap. The avoiding action Russell has to take meant he took an excursion in the gravel.

Sainz was worried he might have damaged his floor, after a run over the kerbs. He radioed: “Maybe check the floor, just in case, because I feel like I lost quite a lot of rear on that lap.”

Some early qualifying runs saw Leclerc and Sainz lead the timing screens, before Verstappen put in a stonking lap to go four tenths faster than Leclerc.

Hulkenberg soon put in a more impressive effort to go second fastest, 0.270s slower than Verstappen. In the meantime, Hamilton could only muster eighth place on his first qualifying simulation.

Alonso, who had a new front wing bolted to his Aston Martin in FP2, soon went second fastest, 0.170s behind Verstappen.

After the session midway mark, the teams set out on long runs on heavy fuel loads, using a mix of Soft, Medium, and even Pirelli Test tyres.

Something funny, Verstappen radios some instructions to the driver who in turns seems to have overheard a phone ringing. None other than Dr. Helmut Marko’s.

Verstappen said: “Someone’s phone is going, is that Helmut’s?”

With almost 12 minutes remaining, Russell reported a few rain drops at Turn 9. He radioed: “Some very light rain drops at Turn 9.”

TV footage showed Sainz going into Turn 14, the SF-23 bouncing significantly. The new upgrade is not working as it should?

The session ended with drivers heading to the start/finish line for some practice starts.

How they finished

Alonso found quite some pace in his AMR23 between FP1 and FP2, around 1.4s, and took the fight to Verstappen in the afternoon session in Barcelona, second best, 0.170s slower. Verstappen’s time in FP2 was a full second faster than in FP1.

Hulkenberg was the star of the second practice, third fastest and 0.270s off the pace, as Sergio Perez was fourth fastest in the sister Red Bull 0.312s off his teammate’s time.

Ocon kept Alpine in the mix, fifth fastest, 0.335s away from the best time, and was followed by Ferrari duo Leclerc and Sainz in sixth and seventh respectively.

Leclerc was 0.002s only behind Ocon, while Sainz was 0.028s only behind his teammate, as the Ferrari keep working in dialing in their SF-23.

Russell was eighth fastest in the Mercedes, almost half the second down from the benchmark, while Hamilton was 11th is the sister Black Arrow, 0.642s too slow.

Valtteri Bottas put the Alfa Romeo ninth fastest with a lap time of 1:14.448, while Gasly rounded off the top ten, 0.009s behind the Finn.

Worth noting is that 0.550s was the gap between first and tenth in FP2.

FP2 Official Results