Sergio Perez topped FP2 in Austin as Red Bull clawed back their gap to Mercedes, with Lando Norris putting himself second fastest.
The Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished third and fourth in practice and, despite running qualifying simulations, lapped slower than they had managed in first practice – albeit with Hamilton’s fastest lap being deleted, which was faster than Perez had managed.
After Mercedes had appeared so dominant in FP1, all eyes were on how the teams would respond in their qualifying runs in particular in the second free practice session.
The track was a hive of activity in the early stages, with the teams keen to get out in conditions which saw an increased track temperature compared to the morning’s running, making tyre management practice key as the drivers got more laps on the clock.
But Norris would not be able to follow most of his rivals early on, complaining of an obstruction in his car which hampered his steering, which brought him back into his garage for his mechanics to sort and lost him about 10 minutes of running.
But the two title rivals would soon run side-by-side on track, as they went full pelt up to Turn 1 in what looked like almost racing conditions.
Hamilton would pull away, but Verstappen came onto his radio and said “stupid idiot,” about the Mercedes driver, followed by a middle finger being raised out of his car.
We're already racing in Austin as Hamilton takes the inside line and goes ahead of Verstappen at Turn 1.
"Stupid idiot," says Max on team radio… #F1
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 22, 2021
Unlike in first practice, Red Bull were on par with their fellow title contenders on pace on the medium tyre, with Sergio Perez pipping Bottas to the top of the timesheets on their initial runs on the medium tyres, with Verstappen and Hamilton in tow and all four cars lapping within a couple of tenths of each other.
Soon afterwards though, the soft tyres began to appear as qualifying simulations started, and Hamilton quickly dropped into the 1:34s and put a healthy gap between himself and the rest of the field – but his lap time was deleted, due to him running past track limits at Turn 19.
Perez put himself top of the standings ahead of Norris, but Verstappen could not find clear air in a couple of attempts at a flying lap due to the traffic situation around him.
The Red Bull driver was audibly frustrated as he could not make his qualifying sim work, saying “I’m boxing, **** this” over radio, preferring to focus on his long runs instead and making his eighth position on the leaderboard probably unrepresentative.
Hot temps 🌡 Hot times on the softs 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Zyf78N4Hzl
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) October 22, 2021
The long run simulations showed both Red Bull drivers had solid pace driving a practice stint, while Hamilton stayed in his garage with an issue to be sorted, but he was able to come out for the final few minutes and put a shorter run in.
After having to pull over in the first session, Fernando Alonso was in the wars again towards the end of the session, as he lost control of his Alpine at Turn 19 when turning in.
The double World Champion flew backwards towards the barriers on the outside, but the impact appeared relatively minor as he managed to get moving again and bring his car back to the pits.
Come the chequered flag, though, Lance Stroll took sixth place in his Aston Martin, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were either side of Verstappen on the leaderboard, while the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10.
All best times on softs unless stated
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:34.946 24 laps
2 Lando Norris McLaren 0.257s 20 laps
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.364s 22 laps
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.414s 24 laps
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 0.511s 21 laps
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 0.615s 25 laps
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.626s 23 laps
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.878s 23 laps M
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.973s 24 laps
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.192s 26 laps
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.212s 23 laps
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.296s 25 laps
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.430s 18 laps
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.612s 25 laps
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.772s 30 laps M
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2.037s 24 laps
17 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.095s 24 laps
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.308s 26 laps
19 George Russell Williams 2.544s 21 laps
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 3.080s 23 laps
Are we watching a season for the ages?
Round 17 of the World Championship is upon us. How will this one go?