Hamilton leads Leclerc in second Turkish GP practice

Lewis Hamilton ended Friday at the Turkish Grand Prix as the quickest driver while title rival Max Verstappen struggled for pace.

Hamilton bettered his fastest time from morning practice to lower the bar to 1m23.804s, beating the absolute track record for the Istanbul Park circuit by almost a second.

Completing Hamilton’s perfect day was his race-simulation performance, his Mercedes lapping the quickest of all with full tanks, which bodes will for his recovery from a 10-place grid penalty for an internal combustion engine change this weekend.

Verstappen, on the other hand, struggled throughout Friday practice. He slipped from 0.4s off the pace in the morning to 0.635s adrift in the afternoon to finish fifth in the final running order, and his long-run average put him close to half a second a lap slower than Hamilton.

The Dutchman complained his Red Bull Racing car was nervous mid-corner, though similar to his response during first practice, he suggested over team radio that the problem afflicting the RB16B couldn’t be helped with simple wing adjustments, pointing to a more significant setup problem.

Slow start for Max Verstappen in the redecorated Red Bull. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Slotting between the title contenders were Charles Leclerc, who was superb in second ahead of Valtteri Bottas, the Finn 0.4s slower than his pace-setting teammates. Even Sergio Perez managed to get the better of Verstappen, albeit by just 0.065s.

Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren and 0.721s off the pace, the Briton one of several drivers to be caught out by a tailwind into Turn 9 and forced into the run-off zone, while Alpine teammates Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were closely matched 0.85s adrift. Ocon, however, suffered a gear selection problem attempting a practice start on the grid after the session concluded and had to have his car recovered from the track.

Pierre Gasly wrestled his AlphaTauri to ninth, the Frenchman at one point radioing his team that his “arms are too short to turn the wheel” in reference to the understeer he was struggling with through the session. His attempts to coax pace from the car eventually had him spin off at Turn 6, flat-spotting a set of soft tires.

Test equipment on the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, who focused on race sims. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Antonio Giovinazzi and Yuki Tsunoda followed in 10th and 11th, while Carlos Sainz was 12th in the second Ferrari. The Spaniard eschewed single-lap performance to focus on race pace knowing he will start from the back of the grid with an engine penalty.

Lance Stroll was 13th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, who dealt with a drink bottle problem that soaked his helmet and then, having unplugged the drinks line, filled his shoes with liquid.

Sebastian Vettel followed in 16th ahead of Williams teammates Nicholas Latifi and George Russell and Haas duo Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.