George Russell finished top of the pile in FP2 at the Miami Grand Prix, underlining Mercedes’ improvements and their potential to possibly challenge Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend.
Russell pipped Charles Leclerc in a reverse of the order of FP1, with Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso’s Alpine rounding out the top five on Friday.
FP2 was as much a tale of practice running as it was for cars failing in different ways, with a significant chunk of the grid suffering issues during the session.
Max Verstappen managed only one lap, while Valtteri Bottas could not get out of the garage at all and Carlos Sainz’s crash put paid to his FP2 session with a hefty impact heading into Turn 14.
The session started while Red Bull conducted a precautionary gearbox change on Verstappen’s car after an issue at the rear of his RB18 in FP1 that had briefly halted his running earlier in the day.
One driver unable to get out at all was Alfa Romeo’s Bottas, whose slide into the barriers in first practice proved too much of a fix for his team to get him out in time for FP2.
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Turn 8 continued to be a tricky challenge for the drivers to negotiate after a couple of moments there in FP1. Perez joined the list of drivers to struggle there, getting out onto the dirty line around the tightening left-hander and helplessly spinning, but the Red Bull driver was untroubled and could carry on, while Kevin Magnussen followed with an almost identical moment near the end of the session.
Magnussen’s Haas seemed intent on shedding weight too as a piece of his sidepod flew off at high speed, leaving a hole in his bodywork and forcing him back into his garage.
But the biggest damage came to Sainz’s car as his F1-75’s rear under-rotated while coming through Turn 13 on the throttle, which sent him into a spin and into the wall – ruling him out of the remainder of the session and leaving the Spaniard apologising to his team over the radio.
That halted the session for almost 10 minutes with red flags again coming out, following on from the morning’s stoppage.
Once things got going again, Verstappen managed to get out of the pits – but he was soon back in again after a fire broke out at the back of his car on what appeared to be his right rear brake, limiting him to only one lap.
Meanwhile, the remaining drivers tried to get their own qualifying simulations under their belts, which appeared to be something of an afterthought due to the troubles up and down the grid.
Russell backed up his form from FP1 by putting in a 1:29.938 to go fastest of anyone, just over a tenth ahead of Leclerc and a further tenth ahead of Perez, with his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton 0.241s behind his younger colleague.
But just as the drivers began looking at their long-run simulations, the red flags were soon out again as Nicholas Latifi pulled off to the side of the track, believing his left rear tyre may not have been attached properly.
The session eventually resumed with eight minutes to go and the drivers made their best efforts to salvage what they could from a heavily interrupted FP2 that saw Mercedes put themselves in the conversation to possibly challenge at the weekend. Watch this space heading into Saturday’s action.
1 George Russell Mercedes 1:29.938 18 laps
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.106s 21
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.212s 19
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.241s 18
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.434s 20
6 Lando Norris McLaren 0.597s 20
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.609s 20
8 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 0.922s 24
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.923s 20
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 0.983s 19
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1.026s 9
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.270s 23
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.322s 23
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.455s 23
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.649s 21
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.693s 23
17 Alex Albon Williams 1.772s 21
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.975s 14
19 Max Verstappen Red Bull NO TIME 1
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing NO TIME