FP2: Leclerc leads as Sainz and Hulkenberg crash out in incident hampered second practice in Abu Dhabi
Charles Leclerc was the quickest of all drivers in Friday practice at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, setting the pace ahead of rivals Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.
Following the earlier running in sunnier unrepresentative conditions, the drivers returned to a much cooler Yas Marina circuit as the sun began to set and temperatures dropped.
Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton led a group of 10 drivers getting their first run out today having sat out FP1. Others getting their first look included Leclerc, Zhou Guanyu, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, and Fernando Alonso.
However, the session was red flagged after just nine minutes with Carlos Sainz having spun into the barrier at Turn 3. The Ferrari driver came on the radio to report that he was okay but that he had been hampered by a bump and the dirty air from Daniel Ricciardo ahead.
FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2023
Abu Dhabi 2023
Practice 2 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari
|2 Lando Norris NOR McLaren
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing
|4 Valtteri Bottas BOT Alfa Romeo
|5 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing
With 25 minutes now gone the drivers returned to the track, with many opting to go on to a set of the soft tyres for some qualifying simulation laps – with Sainz now watching on from the garage with his car now removed from the track.
But as the drivers began to get back to business, the red flags were waved once more as the cameras panned to a stricken Nico Hulkenberg. Replays showed the Haas racer spin into the barrier at the exit of Turn 1 as he set off on his flying lap.
Only 16 minutes remained on the clock when the cars started to line up at the pit exit for what was set to be a hectic final part of the session as the teams prioritised qualifying laps over long runs.
Leclerc wound up with the fastest lap setting a time of 1m 24.809s, although he was kept honest by Norris, in second, who was just 0.043s off the pace. Verstappen improved on his second attempt to finish within a two-tenths of the Monegasque.
Valtteri Bottas impressed for Alfa Romeo as wound up two-tenths off Leclerc’s time and in fourth. Sergio Perez also improved on his second flying lap, and he wound up fifth, a fraction ahead of the lead Mercedes George Russell.
Zhou backed up Bottas’ performance to go seventh while Hamilton survived a few scruffy laps to go eighth, a few thousandths of tenths ahead of the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, as Oscar Piastri rounded out the top-10 for McLaren.
Alonso was 11th ahead of his team mate Lance Stroll in 13th, as the Aston Martin pair sandwiched the AlphaTauri driver Ricciardo. The Australian’s former team mate, Esteban Ocon, was down in 14th, just ahead of his current, Yuki Tsunoda.
Albon was 16th for Williams as they look to keep hold of seventh in the constructors’ championship, ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and his team mate Logan Sargeant, as Sainz and Hulkenberg were left at the rear of the field.
The teams will now dive into the data late into the night – with their factory team running possible set-ups through their simulator – as they look to refine their respective packages for Saturday when final practice kicks off at 14:30 local time.