Leclerc leads Norris in heavily disrupted Abu Dhabi F1 GP FP2 after Sainz and Hulkenberg crashed out

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Charles Leclerc set the fastest time of a heavily disrupted second practice session for the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP, finishing off the final Friday of the season on top. He led Lando Norris by just four hundredths of a second, in a session which saw lenghty red flags for crashes from Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

After several rookies took the centre stage in FP1, the regular drivers returned to their seats for the second practice session, in the final Friday of the session, including both Red Bull drivers – reigning three-time world champion Max Verstappen and championship runner-up Sergio Perez.

Verstappen went straight to the top in his very first lap of the session, with a time of a 1:26.453 on the medium tyres, but was soon beaten by FP1 pace-setter George Russell, who set a 1:25.906 also on mediums.

Just under 10 minutes into the session, Carlos Sainz had a big shunt in his Ferrari heading out of turn three, with a huge snap of oversteer sending his SF-23 straight into the outside barriers. He reported over the radio he was “ok”, and explained he had some dirty air from the car ahead which caused him to lose downforce and consequently the car.

The session was immediately red flagged 9 minutes in – similarly to FP1 in Las Vegas, Sainz was out after less than 10 minutes – though that time through no fault of his own.

The classified order of the top 10 as the session stopped was as follows: Russell, Ricciardo, Stroll, Magnussen, Verstappen, Piastri, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Bottas and Sargeant.

After a very long red flag period, the session resumed with 25 minutes remaining on the clock, with most drivers opting to go out straight away in order to maximize their limited track time after a lengthy stoppage.

But that was to no avail, as Nico Hulkenberg lost the rear of his Haas in his first flying lap, spinning into the barriers on the inside at the exit of the first corner, hitting the armco with his rear wing and tyres, causing another red flag. No driver was able to set any laps during the brief session resumption after the first red flag.

The session resumed again with just 16 minutes remaining on the clock, and the sun already setting down.

Max Verstappen used some interesting tactics to get past drivers on the pit exit, overtaking both Mercedes and Pierre Gasly in a very tight pit exit which isn’t meant to have cars two-wide. He later reported he was getting “blocked”.

Absent from FP1, Lando Norris went straight to the top of the timings in his very first lap, before being usurped by his team-mate Oscar Piastri – but the pair was soon beaten by the two Alfa Romeo Saubers – on their last race with this identity, as Bottas set a 1:25.024 ahead of Zhou.

Pole-sitter last time out in Las Vegas, Charles Leclerc’s first flying lap on the soft tyres got him straight to the top, with a 1:24.809 leaving him just over two tenths clear of Bottas.

After handing his car to Felipe Drugovich to finish P2 in FP1, Fernando Alonso could only manage sixth-fastest in his first soft tyre run, nearly six tenths back from Leclerc’s benchmark time.

Norris jumped up to second place after his first soft tyre lap, just 43 thousandths of a second back from Leclerc in what was an impressive lap for a McLaren that really struggled in Las Vegas.

Lewis Hamilton’s first lap on the softs left him half-a-second back from Leclerc, in what is a direct comparison between rivals for the P2 spot in the constructors’ championship, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Verstappen set the fastest final sector, but could only manage third place behind Leclerc and Norris, just 0.173s back from the Ferrari – his team-mate Perez had set the fastest middle sector and was on course for the overall fastest time, but aborted the lap as he approached the final sector due to traffic – he later completed another lap to go fifth fastest, 0.303s back from P1.

Fastest in FP1, Russell finished FP2 down in sixth place, just over three tenths back from Leclerc.

The final classified order of the top 10 was: Leclerc, Norris, Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, Russell, Zhou, Hamilton, Gasly and Piastri.

Further back, Alonso, Ricciardo, Stroll, Ocon, Tsunoda, Albon, Magnussen, Sargeant, Sainz and Hulkenberg rounded out the field.

Source: Formula 1