Lewis Hamilton continued to embrace the power of Mercedes, as he clinched P1 in the second consecutive F1 practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas closed out a strong Friday outing for Mercedes by claiming P2 ahead of Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman looked challenging enough against the Mercedes duo. However, he struggled to complete his qualifying programme amidst an insane amount of traffic on the narrow-looking track.
Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc absolutely wrecked his Ferrari around turn 23, late in the session, bringing out the red flag and an earlier than expected end to FP2 as well. Hence, looking at the wreckage, there is no denying that the Ferrari engineers will have a long sleepless night ahead.
How the F1 session unfolded
For the first time, the F1 cars joined the track, with the lights glimmering over Jeddah Corniche. Verstappen took an early lead after posting the fastest lap time of 1:30:104 on a fresh set of medium tires. Charles Leclerc found himself in P2 only within 0.1s of the Dutchman, while Hamilton claimed P3, 0.111s adrift of his rival.
However, with the track evolving rapidly, the lap times started to come down quite drastically as Verstappen smashed his previous best with a 1:29:706.
Meanwhile, both the second drivers of Red Bull and Mercedes continued to show significant struggle, as neither of the drivers was able to match the lap times of their respective teammates.
Qualifying F1 simulation causes near-misses
Something feels just a bit off about the Jeddah Corniche circuit, and we could well know the reason behind this feeling during Saturday’s qualifying.
Traffic has caused an insane number of concerns over every single Grand Prix event so far. However, with Jeddah, the threat seems much bigger citing the narrow track width and lack of visibility due to the wavy track layout. All it takes is one tiny mistake from a slow-running driver to cause a massive accident with a driver on a flying lap.
Turn 1 set to cause more troubles?
One of the corners that have so far caused a lot of headache to the drivers is the very first corner of the track, the medium-speed left-handed curve. Quite a lot of drivers including Hamilton, Tsunoda, and Verstappen locked their front tires going into the braking zone.
Of course, the track looks green for now and the grip will ramp up as we head into the weekend. However, the biggest concern is whether the grip will be good enough to end the locking up before turn 1 by the time the main race arrives. If not, well, we could be in for a chaotic start to the race on Sunday.