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Hamilton quickest as Leclerc crashes

NEWS STORY
03/12/2021

Ahead of today's second practice session the air temperature is 28 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

It is now 20:00 (local time), consequently temperatures have dropped, but just a little.

While there were none of the anticipated incident in FP1, a number of drivers were clearly pushing their luck.

Among them was Verstappen, who quick straight out of the box, but at times appeared to be pushing too hard.

Hamilton, on the other hand, was slow(ish) out of the box, but by session end was in his usual position at the top of the timesheets.

Fears over the 'grippiness' of the track - or lack of it - proved unfounded as drivers experienced no issues whatsoever.

Bottas was third, ahead of Gasly, Giovinazzi and the Ferraris, while Perez could only manage a somewhat dismal eleventh.

The lights go green and, as was the case earlier, Sainz gets things underway, followed by Ocon, Mazepin, Leclerc and Raikkonen. As more drivers emerge most are on mediums though a few are on the softs.

Norris, on the other hand, is on softs.

Verstappen is among the early birds, indeed the only driver not to appear at the outset is Hamilton.

"I will need a helmet change before the next run," warns Mazepin as Hamilton emerges from his garage.

Sainz posts a benchmark 32.506 but this is soon beaten by Ocon (31.223).

Norris (softs) posts a 30.771 as Perez runs wide in Turn 4 and Alonso goes third (31.307).

Bottas' opening lap sees the Finn go 7th (31.963) while teammate Hamilton posts a 31.014 to go second.

"The tyres were not ready," reports Bottas, "especially the rear."

On the mediums, Verstappen goes quickest with a 30.104.

Lock-ups for Bottas and Alonso as Lecler4c goes second, ahead of Ocon, Norris, Ricciardo and Bottas.

Perez goes wide in Turn 2.

Hamilton improves to third with a 30.215.

"Tyres completely cold," sighs Alonso, as Verstappen improves to 29.706.

Moments later, on hards, Sainz posts a 30.168 to go second, only to be demoted by his Ferrari teammate who stops the clock at 29.818.

Hamilton misses the apex of Turn 2 as he seeks to close the 0.509s gap to his title rival.

A 29.597 sees Tsunoda go top, however seconds later Verstappen responds with a 29.290.

Perez improves to fifth with a 29.942 as Gasly and then Verstappen miss the apex at Turn 2. Indeed, so does Hamilton.

Bottas goes quickest with a 29.079, as Stroll complains of traffic.

A 29.018 sees Hamilton go top as the 1:28 barrier edges tantalisingly closer.

Brake by wire failure," reports Russell as almost 200 mph, "brake pedal went all the way to the floor."

In the Red Bull garage, they're checking the floor on Verstappen's car after he continues to abuse the kerbs.

Another Turn that is clearly causing problems is 11, a number of drivers almost coming to grief there.

With 30 minutes remaining the drivers begin the switch to softs.

Among the first to bolt on the red-banded rubber is Gasly, who, following a strong opening sector, appears to back off in S2. Indeed, he can only manage 12th (30.316).

On board with Hamilton and it's a scary ride as the Briton comes across traffic at the end of the lap and has to take avoiding action.

"Got ******* traffic, someone's going really slowly in 1," says Hamilton referring to a previous incident.

In all honesty, following that onboard footage, this is an accident waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, Verstappen is unhappy with the front of his car, the Dutchman appearing to be happier on the hards than on the softs.

One of the few drivers unaffected by traffic is Alonso and taking full advantage the Spaniard improves to fourth with a 29.441.

On successive laps Leclerc is off at Turns 8 and 2, while Gasly goes third with a 29.099.

"We think the car is OK," Gasly is told, "we think we understand the issue."

Having failed to improve on the softs, looking ahead to Sunday Hamilton switches to the mediums. The Briton has yet to try the hards that Verstappen clearly favoured.

With 10 minutes remaining all bar Perez are on track.

A spin in Turn 2 for Mazepin briefly brings out the yellows, Hamilton, running right behind, has to take avoiding action.

Over 5 laps on mediums, Hamilton averages 33.8s, while Bottas (on softs) averages 34.2s, Leclerc (medium) 34.3 and Sainz (softs) 34.9.

With just over 4 minutes remaining, the session is red-flagged after Leclerc his the wall at Turn 22/23.

Asked if he is OK, following an agonising delay and a deep sigh he responds: "Yes, I am". Which is more than can be said of the Ferrari. "Sorry, guys," he adds.

Re[lay shows the youngster losing the rear after taking a little too much kerb as he exited Turn 22.

The session will not resume.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Bottas, Gasly, Verstappen, Alonso, Ocon, Sainz, Tsunoda, Perez and Leclerc.

Ricciardo is eleventh, ahead of Norris, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Stroll, Vettel, Russell, Schumacher, Latifi and Mazepin.

One can't help wondering if, in their pursuit of being the longest, fastest etc... officials here haven't gone the wrong way.

Such was the issue with traffic, few, certainly none of the 'big four' was able to post a meaningful time on their qualifying sims.

Whilst billing the track as 'Monaco on steroids' that could prove to be the big issue here, for such is the speed differential between those cars on hot laps and those either slowing down or building up a head of steam there is a serious potential for disaster.

Indeed, the sheers speeds - even Mazepin was averaging 150 mph - with no run-offs or gravel traps just walls, suggest that this is an accident waiting to happen.

Let's hope we are wrong.

Check out our Friday gallery from Jeddah, here.

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1. Posted by Greg, 03/12/2021 19:25

"Let's hope we are wrong and no serious incidents "

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