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Bottas quickest in FP2

NEWS STORY
19/11/2021

Ahead of today's second practice session the air temperature is 27 degrees, while the track temperature is 31 degrees.

Because qualifying and the race take place in the evening in cooler temperatures, this morning's session was pretty much unrepresentative, though it did at least allow the drivers to familiarise themselves with the track.

We say familiarise themselves but in fact many had great difficulty in staying on the black stuff, so much so that whereas track limits were to be enforced at 5 of the circuits 16 corners, Michael Masi has now deemed that limits must be observed at all the corners.

Having had its right to review denied, Mercedes could take little comfort from the morning, what with Honda powered cars filling three of the top five places, in that both AlphaTauris were up there with Max Verstappen.

The Mercedes pair were third and fourth, but as we say the session was pretty much unrepresentative.

Over the course of the morning a number of cars incurred damage after running over the kerbs and it is likely that unless the drivers can get their acts together this will continue.

Of course, their cause wasn't heled by the greenness of the track or the dust and sand, but try using that excuse.

The lights go green and once again Raikkonen leads the way, followed by Bottas, the Mercedes making an unusually early appearance.

It is 17:00 local timer but it is evening in the desert and the track is under floodlights.

More and more drivers head out, a mixture of hards and mediums.

Caught out by his slower teammate ahead, Bottas has to take avoiding action. "I tried to get out of the way," says the world champion.

Leclerc goes quickest with a 25.850, but he is quickly demoted by Ricciardo, Tsunoda and Alonso (24.723).

Just 5 minutes in and all bar Russell and Verstappen have posted time. Mazepin will not take part as his team is changing his chassis.

Hamilton goes second with a 25.088 but drops to third when teammate Bottas crosses the line at 24.421.

However, a 24.285 sees Verstappen go top only for Tsunoda to respond with a 24.233.

"Main losses Turns 4 and 6," Verstappen is told.

As Hamilton improves to 23.743, the cameras show his DRS flap flapping away wildly.

A 23.604 sees Hamilton go top, the Mercedes 0.280s up on his title rival. Moments later, teammate Bottas responds with a 23.324.

Turn 14 continuing to be a problem for drivers as it was in FP1.

Unhappy with the glare from the floodlights, Verstappen calls for a new visor.

Twenty minutes in and Ocon, Latifi and Schumacher switch to softs. The Aston Martin pair follow suit.

Hamilton is the first of the big guns to make the switch, as engineers are working on Leclerc's car.

As was the case earlier, running over the kerbs is causing cars to shed little bits of debris on the track.

As Russell and Stroll have their time deleted, Bottas raises the bar with a 23.154. Hamilton responds with a 23.570.

"At high speed it is quite understeery which is limiting me a bit," says Schumacher.

Stroll goes third with a 23.705 but it demoted to fourth when Norris posts 23.632.

Bottas' previous best is deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 7 as the crackdown gets underway in earnest.

As if all the other issues weren't enough, drivers are now expressing concern over traffic - Sainz having to take drastic action after coming across a slow AlphaTauri being a good example.

Stroll is warned that he may have incurred front wing damage.

There first runs on the softs are only good enough for 4th for Verstappen and 8th Perez as Leclerc has his time deleted (Turn 8).

"That was useless, Hamilton didn't get out of the way," complains Vettel.

After asking for another push lap, Hamilton is told that he needs to "get on with the programme", advised that he's "lacking high fuel".

Gasly goes second with a 23.570 as Verstappen pits for a front wing adjustment before heading out again. The Dutchman subsequently improves but remains third, 0.350s down on Bottas who has posted a 23.148.

Interesting to note that the first 14 drivers are covered by less than a second.

With 8 minutes remaining, all bar Verstappen are on track. As it stands, with 14 laps completed (Verstappen) and 15 (Perez), the Red Bull pair have completed the least number of lap. On the other hand, Sainz and Ocon have completed 24.

All three compounds are currently in use.

Alonso and Norris are the latest to have their times deleted, the Spaniard complaining about traffic.

Over 9 laps, on mediums, Bottas has averaged 27.6, while Verstappen on softs has averaged 28.2 over 4 laps, Hamilton 28.2 (softs, 6 laps) and Perez 28.6 (softs, 4 laps).

The session ends. Bottas is quickest, ahead of Gasly, Verstappen, Hamilton, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda, Perez, Vettel and Sainz.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Alonso, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Russell, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Schumacher.

Not for the first time, certainly as far as practice goes, Bottas is impressive, while Honda is also looking very strong.

Early days however, and following these two sessions, particularly this evening's, you can rest assured that the midnight oil will be burned tonight, both here and at the factories where the simulators are likely to be running through the night as the data is put to use.

Check out our Friday gallery from Qatar, here.

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