Having been fastest in first practice at the Styrian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen topped the timesheets again at the Red Bull Ring in FP2.
Lewis Hamilton had set a time good enough on a qualifying run for P1 with a 1:05.335, but he ran too wide at Turn 10 and his lap was subsequently deleted.
The reigning World Champion eventually ended up P4, with the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso rounding out the top five in a session dominated by fine margins.
A bizarre moment took place late in the session as Valtteri Bottas lost control of his Mercedes as he pulled away from his pit box, with a potentially slippery painted surface seeing his car turn 180 degrees as he put his foot down following a practice pit stop.
Race simulation runs then took place towards the end of FP2 as the cars gathered as much data as they could heading into Saturday’s running.
The second practice session in the Styrian hills started with cars piling onto the track in the hope of gaining valuable track time, with light rain in the air which could have scuppered their planned schedule.
Pierre Gasly, whose fastest lap put him P2 in FP1, was out of the session with his AlphaTauri requiring repairs on a sensor issue, so he took to the pit wall to watch on with interest.
Carlos Sainz was the first spinner of the session after turning around at Turn 4, with wind and rain beginning to pick up slightly in Spielberg.
Turn 3 was also proving to be an issue, with both Hamilton and Verstappen locking up on the hard tyres going into the uphill hairpin, while they traded fastest lap times early on.
Hamilton also dropped a tyre onto the gravel at Turn 4 as he explored the limits of the track, with his Mercedes team in need of more pace after being over four-tenths down on Verstappen’s benchmark in FP1.
The drivers quickly moved to qualifying simulation runs with clouds still hanging over the circuit, in a bid to potentially get their runs under their belts early if the weather did deteriorate.
Nikita Mazepin was also in the wars, spinning his Haas around as he went beyond the limits of Turn 4 and into 5, but he was able to get himself out of the gravel and not interrupt proceedings.
But a strange turn of events in terms of pit lane activity was Bottas spinning in the pits after a practice stop, which caused a stir in the teams – not least from one of Mercedes’ near neighbours in the pits.
“Michael [Masi, race director], that’s absolutely ridiculous. He could have taken our guys out there, and the pit wall,” came the message on the radio from McLaren. The FIA then confirmed they will be investigating the incident after the session.
McLaren showed an improved turn of foot after a lowly showing in FP1, with Ricciardo pumping in a 1:05.748s to put himself P2 behind Verstappen, while Alpine showed their pace with Ocon and Alonso both in the top five after their qualifying sims.
Alpine’s speed dropped off on Saturday and Sunday at Paul Ricard, so their next challenge will be to show their competitiveness as the grid is set for Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix.
The top 14 cars were all within a second of Verstappen’s fastest lap in FP2, which shows the time differences between the cars will be extremely fine heading into Saturday.
(All fastest times set on soft tyres except Latifi, on mediums)
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:05.412 37 laps
2 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 0.336s 35
3 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.378s 35
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.384s 35
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.415s 39
6 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 0.522s 38
7 Lando Norris McLaren 0.582s 39
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 0.667s 36
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.677s 36
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 0.733s 37
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.735s 39
12 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.839s 32
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.858s 39
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.039s 39
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.179s 41
16 George Russell Williams 1.216s 39
17 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.474s 29
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1.992s 30
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.257s 32
20 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri NO TIME SET
Follow all the action from the Styrian Grand Prix with the PlanetF1 live centre