Fernando Alonso leads the free practice sessions and a convalescent Carlos Sainz meets in Saudi Arabia | Formula 1 | Sports

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The Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin Aramco) was the fastest this Thursday during the second free practice session of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, and improved his performance from the first session to surprise the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who took third place behind the British George Russell (Mercedes).

With his best lap of 1:28.827 on the Corniche circuit in Jeddah, Alonso gave great sensations on soft tyres. Already in the first turns on the Saudi track with medium tires, the man from Oviedo set a time of 1:29.846 to take the lead and send a message to each Red Bull car, as the Mexican Sergio Pérez followed in his wake. The Asturian maintained his position at the top with another lap of 1:29.560 and at times saw the other Spaniard, Carlos Sainz, occupy second place, 0.105 away. Then Verstappen became serious, as did the Monegasque Charles Leclerc at the wheel of the other Ferrari.

Both pushed the time table higher, although in reality it was Russell who took the best advantage of the change from the medium to the soft tire to move up to second position and stay 0.230 behind Alonso’s new best time, that 1:28:827 that already He didn’t move anymore. Having overcome his physical indisposition on Wednesday, Sainz this time finished seventh.

In free practice 1, and with soft rubber, Verstappen had led a session of this type for the first time this season; He clocked a 1:29.659, only 80 thousandths worse than his best time last year in the same race. Alonso, 186 thousandths behind the champion, had shown that his car can compete with those in front within one lap while they continue to adjust the set up in race simulation.

The first free practice sessions in Jeddah started with the news that Sainz would force himself to get on the SF-24, after he had left the car the day before. paddock when feeling unwell. Despite not being at 100%, he performed and worked on his car, completing more than 20 laps and finishing sixth (1:30.164), just over a tenth behind his teammate Leclerc, who was fifth (1:30.030) in that initial session.

Like a week ago in Bahrain, this first session was at night and, therefore, not very representative of what will be seen on Friday during qualifying or on Saturday in the race. Thus, the protagonists at the beginning were the hard and medium tires, with a varied exchange of drivers in the upper zone. Although from the start it was Russell and Mercedes who were the most solid and were on top for most of the minutes. Alonso also enjoyed the lead after ten minutes with a 1:30.961, a time that the Briton beat by half a second on that first attempt.

A time that, like in Bahrain, was difficult for him to overtake a hidden Verstappen, who complained about some settings at that start, something already common in Free Practice 1 for the Dutchman. The track started out very dirty, but the times improved as the minutes passed, with the first six drivers in just four tenths.

Sainz warned with the first very subtle touch of the wall, although it was the Canadian Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) who touched the wall in the first section. The hubcap of his left front wheel was thrown off, requiring the small damage in the box to be fixed, although without major complications. The British Lando Norris (McLaren) debuted the soft tire in the second part of the session with a 1:30.424, but with that compound Russell also started as the leader. Until Verstappen got into tune and set a 1:29.659 in the final stretch, almost three tenths better than the time of the ‘silver arrows’.

Alonso also rode soft tires and slipped between the two Red Bulls, one tenth behind ‘Mad Max’, after Pérez also moved up, finally finishing third. He got between them, 209 thousandths behind his teammate. Mercedes left very good feelings, with hardly any degradation, with Russell fourth and Hamilton eighth. He top 10 He was barely separated by a single second, with Norris seventh, and Stroll and Alex Albon (Williams) closing that string of positions. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) finished fifteenth, while the Alpines continue with their ordeal and only Pierre Gasly improved his performance in free practice 2, finishing ninth and taking Albon out of there.

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