RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 1 last visited Turkey in 2011, and there was a touch of 2011 about the timesheets after Free Practice 2 at Istanbul Park, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led his second straight session of the day, winding up 0.401s ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, with Valtteri Bottas claiming P3 for Mercedes – but over half a second off the pace.

    Verstappen had headed team mate Alex Albon in the cold and slippery conditions of FP1 this morning. And FP2 began in a similar fashion, the drivers incredibly tentative as they tip-toed around the seldom-used – and recently re-surfaced – Istanbul Park circuit.

    FP1: Verstappen quickest as drivers struggle with slippery track in first practice in Turkey

    But with the track ramping up through the session, and the teams running multiple laps on the soft tyres during their qualifying simulations as they struggled with graining, Verstappen eventually ended up with a fastest lap of 1m 28.330s – over seven seconds faster than he’d managed this morning, but still around four seconds of Juan Pablo Montoya’s track record here from 2005.

    Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020

    Turkey 2020

    Practice 2 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:28.330
    2 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari +0.401s
    3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.575s
    4 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +0.850s
    5 Alexander Albon ALB Red Bull Racing +1.033s

    Having finished P3 this morning, Charles Leclerc confirmed Ferrari’s handy pace around Istanbul, ending up as the next fastest driver, four-tenths down on Verstappen. However, even more of a shock than Ferrari’s strong pace, was Mercedes’ lack of it.

    Having failed to set a representative time this morning – as Bottas ended up P9, while Lewis Hamilton was P15 – when Mercedes appeared to unleash their full performance in the qualifying sessions, Bottas could only manage a 1m 28.905s to leave him 0.575s adrift of Verstappen, with Hamilton slotting into P4, but 0.850s off the ultimate pace and complaining of a general lack of grip.

    AS IT HAPPENED - Second Practice in Turkey

    Albon, meanwhile, led much of the early part of the session after going fastest on the medium tyres, but would ultimately wind up 1.033s off Verstappen in P5, the Thai driver finishing ahead of the AlphaTauri pair of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly in sixth and seventh, as the Italian team once again confirmed the strong performance in an AT01 for which the team have brought new barge boards and a new floor this weekend.

    Sebastian Vettel had initially lapped closely to his Ferrari team mate Leclerc, but could only take P8 in the end, 1.692s back on Verstappen, with the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix winner having flat-spotted his front-left soft tyres at the end of his qualifying simulation.

    FP2 Highlights: 2020 Turkish Grand Prix

    Another shock was the relative lack of pace of the teams currently fighting for third in the championship, Renault, Racing Point and McLaren. After a torrid few races, Lance Stroll led the way in that fight, taking P9 but almost three-tenths off Vettel’s time, while 21st birthday boy Lando Norris rounded out the top 10 for McLaren, ahead of the second Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

    Esteban Ocon was the best-placed Renault in 12th, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz – which appeared to have been fixed following an electrical issue on Friday morning. He finished over three seconds off Verstappen’s pace in 14th, ahead of Imola podium taker Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault, with 2005 Turkey winner Kimi Raikkonen taking 16th in the second Alfa Romeo – on what is the ‘Sauber’ team’s 500th Grand Prix weekend.

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    Completing the top 20 came the Williams of George Russell in 17th, who headed the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, while after taking an impressive P11 this morning, Nicholas Latifi took 20th, over five seconds adrift of the pace of Verstappen – with both Williams drivers suffering low-speed spins, while Russell was heard exasperatedly lamenting the snappiness of his FW43 through the infamous Turn 8 corner.

    So, at the end of Friday, it was very much advantage Red Bull. But is that the true picture here in Istanbul – or can Mercedes use their homework time on Friday night to pull themselves back into contention, on a weekend when Lewis Hamilton could claim his seventh drivers’ title?