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Emilia Romagna GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen struggles

Emilia Romagna GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen struggles

Emilia Romagna GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen struggles

Charles Leclerc set the pace in the second practice session for the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP, while Max Verstappen’s struggles persisted.

Leclerc confirmed Ferrari’s strong form this weekend at Imola, the SF-24 rapid regardless of the tyre compound and fuel load, the Monegasque topping FP2.

Verstappen on the other hand couldn’t find the sweet spot with his RB20 despite the major setup change Red Bull performed ahead of FP2, the triple Formula 1 Champion still struggling with the middle sector and seventh fastest on Friday afternoon.

And while Lando Norris did not feature at the top of the timing screens, that was due to a mistake in Turn 18 on a qualifying lap in which he was posting purple sectors before the error. He was 12th fastest.

Had he kept it together, Norris would have been closer to the top, if not the fastest, which shows McLaren have the pace this weekend.

Oscar Piastri’s was second fastest behind Leclerc which proved McLaren’s strong form with Yuki Tsunoda a surprising third in the VCARB.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were fourth and fifth, an improvement for the former, the latter dropping compared to FP1, but as is the case with Mercedes, one doesn’t know what to expect.

If that proves anything, it is that we are in for a thrilling qualifying and race as the upgraded Ferrari and McLaren with both their MCL38s having the updates – Norris had them in Miami – will give Red Bull a decent run for their money.

Buildup towards FP2

Ferrari were off to a flying start to their home race at Imola, as Leclerc set the pace in FP1 with the upgraded SF-24, while Verstappen struggled for grip especially in the middle sector, with Norris running under the radar after suffering some car issues.

And while George Russell showed some impressive speed in the Mercedes W15 that had some further upgrades following those of Miami, Hamilton in the other car was all over the place with several off-track moments, which was not restricted to the seven-time F1 Champ by the way.

It remains to be seen whether Russell or Hamilton is the true indication of Mercedes’ form this weekend, and if Ferrari will maintain their pace advantage.

What of Verstappen, will he find the rails his RB20 usually runs on? And what of McLaren?

Let’s see if FP2 offers any answers…

FP2 Session Highlights

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The wind picked up for FP2, with conditions remaining clear, track temperatures dropping though to 37 degrees Celsius with air temperature 24 degrees.

No waste of time, and drivers lined up in the pitlane waiting for the green light at the exit, with only the two Williams cars and Piastri remaining in their respective garages.

Tyres of choice? Well it was a mix of Medium and Hard tyres at the start, with qualifying runs scheduled for later on in the session.

Nico Hulkenberg soon returned to the Haas garage having reported that something was “not right” with his VF-24.

Pierre Gasly soon lost control of his Alpine and spun out at Variante Alta while coming out of the chicane. The car remained in one piece though.

Red Bull have done a major setup change on their #1 RB20 and Verstappen had some good news to them when the asked him about the balance of the car, he said: “Better already.”

The Dutchman went to the top of the timing screens from his first timed lap on Mediums, and after a brief drop to second by Tsunoda, he reclaimed the top spot, 12 minutes into the session.

Fernando Alonso had a moment with Hamilton, he reported to his team: “Hamilton thinks he is the only car on the track. It is the second lap he does it, Turn 12 and now Turn 7.”

In the meantime, Williams seemed to be having an issue with both their cars absent from the track and remain on their stands with the floors off.

Over 15 minutes into the session Ferrari soon took the two top spots with Leclerc leading Carlos Sainz, the former asking his team to check the power steering having felt something wrong in Turn 11.

With 40 minutes remaining, the second runs started after drivers returned to their pits for some setup changes and new Soft tyres bolted for some qualifying runs.

Russell put in the first lap, but he was only fourth fastest behind Leclerc, Sainz and Verstappen’s Medium-set times.

Norris was on a cracking lap, putting in purple sectors but lost his car, going hard on the kerbs coming out from the penultimate corner and returned to the pits.

Leclerc improved his lap time on Softs and remained on top, Sainz still second behind him with Hamilton finding some pace to go third, which Verstappen soon reclaims.

Verstappen – not helped by traffic – still seemed to be struggling in the middle sector and soon Russell took third from him – halfway through the session.

It was a pity Norris aborted his impressive lap, but Piastri shows McLaren’s potential soon after going second fastest over a tenth slower than Leclerc who also improves.

Verstappen is not happy, he reports: “My God. I don’t know man. It’s so difficult everything man. This time suddenly the front grips up a lot, I almost spin.”

He also has a moment with his old nemesis Hamilton, both exchanging gestures, Hamilton asking his engineer for heads up about other cars on track.

For the second time on Friday, Sainz is caught out by the chicane and goes straight through the grass.

The final 15 minutes and the teams set out on long runs having concluding the qualifying simulations, so high fuel loads and harder tyres.

The stewards announced that Tsunoda will be investigated after FP2 for a practice start infringement, having done one at the wrong place at the pit exit.

Traffic will be a topic in Imola, Leclerc having a moment with Sergio Perez in the final eight minutes, and went on to perform an elbows-out overtake, leaving the Mexican perplexed.

“What’s wrong with that Ferrari?” he asked.

Verstappen, in the final five minutes had another moment in the gravel, as he continued to struggle with his car’s balance. Sainz also had a similar moment.

How they finished

Leclerc’s session-topping time was a 1:15.906, 0.192s ahead of Piastri in second with Tsunoda third fastest, 0.380s away from the top.

Hamilton was 0.011s behind Tsunoda in fourth and 0.014s ahead of teammate Russell who was fifth fastest in the sister Mercedes.

Sainz was sixth fastest in the other Ferrari, half a second slower than his teammate and 0.024s ahead of Verstappen in second with Perez in eighth and 0.105s behind his teammate.

Hulkenberg was ninth fastest with Alonso tenth. Norris was 12th.

Emilia Romagna GP FP2 Classification

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