Lewis Hamilton continues his climb to an eighth Formula One title, setting the pace for Friday’s practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver has won the last two races to close within eight points of championship leader Max Verstappen heading into the final two grands prix of the year.
However, Friday’s second practice was a defining moment in title contention. During the closing minutes of the session Charles Leclerc crashed hard for Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc was involved in a major crash which saw his Ferrari destroyed late in practice
As he jumped from the wreckage, the 24-year-old showed no signs of serious injuries.
Leclerc replaced his steering wheel and assessed the damage to Ferrari’s.
Monegasque driver, who lost control of the Ferrari at his rear as he entered a fast left-hander at Turn 22 at just 170mph was sent into a spin toward the Tecpro barriers. It cushioned his impact with the barrier and he crashed off the circuit.
Leclerc apologized over team radio, and was then released to his teammates after a medical check.
The youngster, aged 24, did not suffer any injuries while he was climbing out of his Ferrari. His team has yet to fully assess the extent and will continue to repair it throughout the night.
Hamilton won both day sessions fastest, beating his teammate Valtteri bottas. Verstappen was around two tenths slower in the evening session.
Friday’s practice was a success for Mercedes-Benz in Saudi Arabia. Lewis Hamilton was the fastest
Hamilton is setting a precedent in Saudi Arabia where F1 Grand Prix will be held for the first-time.
SAUDI ARABIAN GP – FP2 TIMES
1 Hamilton (Gbr), Mercedes 1 : 29.018
2 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:29.079
3 Gasly, (Fra), AlphaTauri 1:19.099
4 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:29.213
Alpine 2:9.441 5 Alonso
6 Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:29.555
7 Sainz (Spa) Ferrari. 1:29.589
8 Tsunoda (Jpn) AlphaTauri 1:29.597
9 Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:29.768
10 Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:29.772
11 Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:29.968
12 Norris, Gbr McLaren 1:05.004
13 Giovinazzi (Ita) A. Romeo 1:30.110
14 Raikkonen (Fin) A. Romeo 1:30.276
15 Stroll, (Can) Aston Martin at 1:30.442,
16 Vettel (Ger), Aston Martin 1:502
17 Russell (Gbr. Williams) 1:30.506
18 Schumacher (Ger), Haas 1:30.652
19 Latifi (Can) Williams 1:31.039
20 Mazepin (Raf) Haas 1:31.629
Hamilton, who led the charge off track on Wednesday against the Saudi Arabian treatment of LGBTQ+ communities, admitted that he did not feel at home racing in Saudi Arabia.
He was at ease on the track, however, and his time of 1 minute 29.786 seconds beat Verstappen just by 0.056 seconds. The second Mercedes Valtteri bottas came in third during the first session.
Workers continued to prepare the venue until the wee hours of Thursday, but the planned ribbon cutting ceremony was quickly cancelled.
Formula Two’s practice session was also delayed due to an “operational problem” that occurred before F1 cars arrived at Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
As the final event of a thrilling championship race, the inaugural Jeddah race is featured.
Hamilton chose to sport pride colors on his helmet in order to bring attention to critical issues
The track was untested, and the qualifying race and Sunday’s race were held in the evening. This session was more of an experience for drivers.
Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, fifth fastest AlphaTauri, will still be happy to win the top spot, as well as the Aston Martin Antonio Giovinazzi, at fourth.
Ferrari came in sixth and seventh place with Carlos Sainz (and Charles Leclerc), while Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10.