Lewis Hamilton outpaced Max Verstappen by a tenth of a second as F1 2021’s emerging title rivals led the way in Practice Two on the opening day of the Portuguese GP weekend.
After dramatic battles in each of the season’s opening two rounds, Hamilton and Verstappen are again favourites to duel for victory at Portimao and it was Mercedes who claimed a narrow single-lap advantage over Red Bull on Friday.
Hamilton, who will go in search of a 100th pole position in F1 on Saturday, set the pace on the soft tyres with a time of 1:19.837.
Verstappen was 0.143s adrift, with morning pacesetter Valtteri Bottas two tenths further back in third in the second Mercedes.
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The leaders of the chasing pack were close behind too – with Carlos Sainz fourth for Ferrari and, more surprisingly, the Alpine cars fifth and sixth quickest.
The former Renault team have slipped down the midfield order after a strong finish to last season but Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were both competitive relative to Ferrari on Friday.
Close at the front around the Portimao ‘rollercoaster’
Charles Leclerc was seventh ahead of the lead McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10.
Underlining the competitive nature of the field in the final year of F1’s current rules era, the top dozen on the timesheet were split by less than one second.
But it was another tough session for Sebastian Vettel, down in 15th in the other Aston Martin.
“Vettel is having a horrid session again, like he did this morning,” said Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta during commentary. “He’s half a second down on Lance Stroll.”
The start of the one-hour session had been delayed by 10 minutes owing to a loose drain cover, with similar issues having afflicted the start of qualifying at Portimao on F1’s first visit to the Algarve circuit in October.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was the only driver to find the gravel, but the Canadian managed to keep his car going and drive back on to the circuit after sliding wide at Turn Eight.
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