Red Bull and Racing Point drivers tangle during P2; Bottas fastest in twice red-flagged session, with Hamilton down in eighth on opening day at Portimao
Valtteri Bottas maintained his position at the head of the timesheet on F1’s Portimao debut but the battle for the top positions in the second practice session was overshadowed by a collision between Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll and a car fire for Pierre Gasly.
Verstappen and Stroll came together at Turn One with 25 minutes to go in the afternoon’s running, with the latter spinning out and causing the session’s second red flag.
The stewards investigated the crash and ruled that no further action was warranted after the drivers agreed the “incident was the result of a misunderstanding between them” and that “both could have contributed to avoiding” the clash.
Red Bull’s Verstappen had let Stroll overtake him at the end of the previous lap but, as he attempted to repass the Racing Point car into the first corner, the Canadian turned in to take the corner and the two cars made contact.
“I was so surprised. He just turned in. I was coming up to him!” said Verstappen after the session.
But Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer defended Stroll, saying his driver was on two consecutive ‘push’ laps and so did not need to cede position to the Red Bull.
“I think Max didn’t realise we were doing two quick laps there and shouldn’t have been where he was,” said Szafnauer to Sky F1.
“We often do [two consecutive flying laps], it’s pretty common.
“Lance doesn’t see him there. I haven’t talked to him yet, but had he known he was there he wouldn’t have turned in. It’s just ridiculous. For what gain?
“It’s Practice Two and it’s just a shame that we touched and it was just very unnecessary. It’s just silly.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner accepted the incident was probably “50-50”.
“If I’m absolutely honest, you can look at it and say both had a role to play. Max has assumed Lance was going to back out, while Lance may not have even been aware Max was there,” said Horner.
What else happened in the session?
Friday’s second session had already been suspended once by that point when Gasly pulled up when his AlphaTauri caught fire at the rear of the car.
The Frenchman exited the car quickly after stopping at the side of the track with marshals on the scene to put out the flames.
Bottas set his fastest time on soft tyres just before that first red flag, the Finn has also set the pace in the morning’s opening session.
The Finn, who has often led the field on Fridays this year only to lose his advantage through the weekend, clocked a benchmark time of 1:17.940. Hamilton was also on soft tyres at the time but failed to complete a representative lap on them before the red flag.
After the subsequent delay for the Verstappen-Stroll incident, Hamilton returned to the track but slipped down to the eighth position.
“P1 was probably the better session for me even though the car didn’t feel that great, then we made some changes and the car felt pretty terrible in P2,” admitted the world champion.
“So I need to take a few steps back to see where I went wrong with the set-up and see if we can improve it for tomorrow.”
Nonetheless, Hamilton described his first experience of driving a current F1 car around the fast Algarve circuit as “massively challenging”, with undulations that were “incredible”.
Verstappen, meanwhile, was able to return to the track after his Stroll collision and finished second to Bottas, 0.6s adrift on slower medium tyres. Lando Norris took a strong third for McLaren late on.
And, in encouragement for Ferrari after recent steps forward, Charles Leclerc was fourth with Sebastian Vettel sixth.