Max Verstappen signed off on Friday with the fastest time of the day, while Charles Leclerc did so by putting his Ferrari in the wall.
It had been Verstappen and Leclerc trading the P1 times earlier in the session, but when the drivers went into race simulation mode, some mistakes began to crop up.
By this point Verstappen had already put himself almost four-tenths clear of Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz at the front, but it will be the loss of track time for long-run data gathering which will hurt Leclerc heading into Sunday’s Grand Prix, having found the wall at Turn 7.
After the truly roasting conditions of FP1, the track temperature had dropped in time for FP2, to a now, very slightly more modest 40 Celsius as the light went green.
Fernando Alonso was quickly into the push laps for Aston Martin, but it was Red Bull setting the early benchmark, Verstappen clocking a 1:30.146 as he already flirted with George Russell’s FP1-topping time.
But, while Verstappen was flirting, Leclerc decided it was time to obliterate FP1’s standard, setting a 1:29.4, all while Kevin Magnussen no nearly completed a nightmare Friday for Haas.
Like his team-mate earlier in the day, Magnussen also got himself into a spin, and despite a hit of the wall at Turn 14, his VF-23 lived to tell the tale and continued on in FP2.
Out front Verstappen had narrowed the deficit to Leclerc to a tenth, but also of concern was his headrest, the Dutchman feeling rather “stuck” because of it in the RB19. This was an issue which later brought the FIA’s F1 technical delegate Jo Bauer down to the Red Bull garage for an inspection.
It was not causing him too many troubles though as he switched the narrative with Leclerc, now moving a tenth ahead of the Ferrari driver as the session approached 15 minutes gone.
With Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz completing that early top four covered by a quarter of a second, Perez it seemed had not yet shown his hand, having set a purple Sector 1 on a lap where he ultimately came back to the pits, his second sector ruined as he approached the slow-moving Nyck de Vries.
It was not the AlphaTauri driver who saw the black and white warning flag though, instead that was Perez who had made a late decision to cross the pit-entry line on his way back to the Red Bull garage.
The medium rubber had been the compound of choice so far, so in a repeat of what was seen in FP1, the switch to soft rubber brought about major gains. Lando Norris pulled the trigger, setting a 1:28.741 as the new time to beat.
That Norris time was standing up well against competition from the likes of Alonso, Sainz and Leclerc, though it had no chance against a fresh Verstappen assault, the benchmark now lowered to a 1:28.255.
Ferrari now though were flexing their muscles a little more, and it was Sainz leading the charge, reducing Verstappen’s buffer to only 0.06s, while Alex Albon was having more trouble with that quick but slippery Williams, getting himself back on track after checking out the escape road down at Turn 17. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile was finding Turn 7 rather tricky in his Mercedes.
Verstappen soon decided that he did not like that slim margin to Sainz and proceeded to put almost four-tenths between himself and Sainz with a little over 20 minutes left in the session.
From here, drivers went into their familiar routine of piecing together the race simulations, gathering vital data, particularly when it comes to the tyre compounds, ahead of the Grand Prix on Sunday.
George Russell had a brief delay to his long run as he went straight on at Turn 11, quickly spinning his Mercedes back into the right direction and continuing on his way. Alonso meanwhile was irked by his ex-Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon who was refusing to get out of the Spaniard’s way.
Leclerc was next to get it all wrong, and this time, it was session over. After a big snap on entry to Turn 7, Leclerc was left powerless to slow the Ferrari and found himself heading to the barrier, giving a shake of the head before he exited that stricken Ferrari as the red flags came out.
The session would resume with around five minutes to go as all 19 remaining drivers looked to eke out the available track time, as well as get a practice start in.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:27.930
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.385
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.468
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.489
5 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.730
6 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.811
7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.928
8 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.000
9 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.007
10 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.116
11 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.168
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.241
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.251
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.259
15 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.286
16 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.409
17 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.463
18 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.683
19 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.998
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.108