until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Red Bull problems continue as Leclerc sweeps Friday practice

by Jack Cozens
3 min read

Charles Leclerc continued to set the pace in his upgraded Ferrari at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with the fastest time in second practice, a session that painted a gloomy picture for current Formula 1 dominator Red Bull.

Key moments

  • Leclerc's clean sweep
  • Verstappen's third off
  • McLaren in the mix
  • Positive for Mercedes

World champion and current points leader Max Verstappen was only seventh-fastest in the headline times ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, with both more than half a second off Leclerc's best.

Verstappen radioed in to report his ill-ease after his final qualifying simulation attempt, saying "f***, my God" and that "it's so difficult, everything, man; this time suddenly the front grips up a lot and I almost spin".

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Red Bull, F1, Imola

And though Perez's initial long-run pace was in the ballpark of the McLarens and Leclerc's Ferrari, in the low-to-mid-1m20s, Verstappen could not lap below the 1m21s marker to begin with and even experienced a trip through the gravel - his third excursion of the day after two in FP1 - at Rivazza as his Red Bull refused to comply into the first part of the double left-hander at the end of the lap.

The day belonged to Leclerc - who followed up his fastest time in FP1 by going fastest by 0.192 seconds in the second session with a 1m15.906s.

Oscar Piastri was his closest challenger for McLaren, with Yuki Tsunoda an eyebrow-raising third as he maintained his impressive single-lap pace at Imola.

Yuki Tsunoda, RB, F1, Imola

But while Tsunoda's pace did not translate as impressively on the long-run simulations, Piastri's very much did - with he and team-mate Lando Norris matching Leclerc on those end-of-session runs.

Piastri was among the first to head out for those simulations and lapped consistently in the mid-to-low 1m20s at the beginning of his stint on hard tyres - which this weekend are the C3 tyres in Pirelli's offering.

Norris ended FP2 with the fastest middle sector of all but did not string together a representative lap, having dipped a wheel into the gravel on the exit of Rivazza, and ended up 12th. But that hint of pace was also evident on his long run, Norris starting his stint marginally faster than team-mate Piastri.

Leclerc, who along with Perez has been summoned to see the stewards over an impeding incident (by Perez) at the end of the session, was slower than the pair of McLarens at the start of his simulation but did ultimately get down to a 1m20.023s, around two tenths better than what Piastri/Norris managed.

Behind Tsunoda - who will also face the stewards, though in his case this was for a potential practice start infringement - Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ended a positive FP2 for Mercedes by completing the top five, four tenths away from the ultimate pace.

The second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was a muted sixth and more than half a second off the pace, with Haas's Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) completing the top 10 behind the two Red Bulls.

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