FP2: Charles Leclerc fastest as Pirelli test 2023 tyres in extended session

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc is interviewed. Austin October 2022.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc speaks to the media. Austin October 2022.

Charles Leclerc went fastest in FP2 in Austin as Pirelli’s 2023 tyres commanded most of the attention for the session on Friday.

The Ferrari driver was fastest ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, with the trio being the only three drivers to run the current 2022 compounds for the first part of the session, being allowed to do so as they vacated their seats for first practice earlier in the afternoon.

On the test tyres, Carlos Sainz was quickest of the runners, albeit 1.422s off Leclerc’s fastest time, but Mick Schumacher in fifth was a further 1.2s behind Sainz – making the competitive order difficult to read after a session mostly dedicated to testing.

After five drivers swapped seats for FP1, FP2 saw the regular drivers return to their cockpits for an extended session – with 90 minutes of running instead of the usual 60.

The extra half-hour came as a result of Pirelli testing 2023 tyre compounds with the drivers, with their sets unmarked as they took to the track at COTA.

Leclerc took the opportunity to run on the current compounds early on after missing FP1, and quickly went fastest on a 1:36.810 – matching team-mate Carlos Sainz’s session-topping time from FP1 while others tested the 2023 tyres.

Old sparring partners Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton came close while both were on flying laps, with the Alpine driver caught up behind his former McLaren team-mate, complaining that “Hamilton has no mirrors today” when he didn’t get out of his way.

After meeting Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was spotted in the Mercedes garage speaking to Toto Wolff during the session – after Ben Sulayem and Horner are believed to have met over Red Bull’s 2021 budget cap breach at Austin on Friday.

But back on track, Kevin Magnussen had to come into his garage after complaining of a part being loose between his legs while driving, while Lando Norris had a heart-in-mouth moment as he suffered a snap of oversteer when he was coming into the pit lane, mercifully avoiding a clip with the wall as he returned to the McLaren garage.

The drivers continued to pound round on the Pirelli test compounds. Given their grip level/softness was publicly unavailable, it was difficult to read into the times the drivers were clocking through the first half of the session.

Hamilton was pushing the limits at Turn 19 though, running wide on the exit and having to catch his W13 before he got sent into a spin.

The extended FP2 session was mostly for Pirelli’s benefit for their tyre testing for next season, with drivers taking in lengthy stints on Pirelli’s test rubber for next year.

Leclerc, Bottas and Ricciardo took part on the current tyres as they missed out on FP1, meaning they were able to use the first half-hour of the session to run practice as they would have done in first practice.

FP3 on Saturday will be a more representative view of where the teams stand heading into qualifying, with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all in the mix based on the results of FP1.

FP2 classification

1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:36.810
2 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.715
3 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren +0.817
4 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.422
5 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 Team +2.697
6 Lando NORRIS McLaren +2.737
7 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +2.765
8 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +2.888
9 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +3.030
10 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +3.042
11 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +3.274
12 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +3.368
13 George RUSSELL Mercedes +3.752
14 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +3.854
15 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +3.996
16 Esteban OCON Alpine +4.500
17 Fernando ALONSO Alpine +4.524
18 Alexander ALBON Williams +5.043
19 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin +5.047
20 Nicholas LATIFI Williams +5.507

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