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Max third in FP2 in Abu Dhabi: 'Balance can be a lot better'

Published on 24 November 2023 by Misha van der Kroon

Max Verstappen finished the second free practice session in Abu Dhabi in third position. After a chaotic session with two red flags, Charles Leclerc managed to set the fastest time, ahead of Lando Norris. Max’s teammate at Oracle Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, finished fifth.

“I didn’t learn much today. The balance is very off, a lot of understeer, a lot of jumping, so there are definitely a few things to figure out for tomorrow,” Verstappen said after the session. “I didn’t expect to be so far off, so it’s a bit of a question mark for us. I mean, we’re still P3, it’s not too bad, but balance-wise it can be a lot better.” 

When exiting the pitlane after the second red flag, Max overtook several drivers. “They have to move”, he said. “They were all driving slowly, and I wanted to go out, because we were limited on time. They just kept on driving in the middle, and then when I tried to pass they tried to squeeze me in the walls.”

After a first free practice with ten rookies behind the wheel, the twenty regular drivers were back in their cars. Max is also back in his RB19. At the start of the session, Verstappen immediately goes out on track on the medium tyres, and quickly sets a time on the clock. After the first runs, George Russell is fastest, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Max is on his first lap half a second slower than Russell, and takes P5 at that moment. 

After less than nine minutes however, the red flag is waved as Carlos Sainz crashes hard into the Tecpro barrier. The Ferrari driver gets out of the car on his own, but the session is stopped for almost 25 minutes as the marshals need time to repair the barrier. 

When the light at the end of the pitlane turns green again, there are only 25 minutes left in the session. Almost all drivers take to the track straight away, hoping to make good use of the remaining time. Unfortunately, the time is cut short again. Three minutes into the remainder of the session, the red flag is waved again due to a crash of Nico Hulkenberg. The crash wasn’t as hard as Sainz’s, and Hulkenberg also climbs out of his car on his own. 

With sixteen minutes left on the clock, the drivers take to the track again. Lando Norris is the first to beat Russell’s time on the mediums. Other drivers also improve their time, but on the soft tyres. Like Norris, Max continues with the medium tyres and briefly improves to ninth place. Leclerc then clocks the fastest time, and he is the first one to set a time under the 1:25:000. 

Max’s teammate Sergio Perez also stays on the medium tyres for a long time, but switches to softs towards the end of the session. After a fast first and second sector, he loses time in the third sector and sets the sixteenth time on the clock. At the end of the session, on his last flying lap, Perez improves to fifth place. The Mexican is no longer fighting for second place in the Drivers’ Championship, which he secured last weekend in Las Vegas. It is for the first time in the history of Red Bull Racing that the Austrian team manages to secure first and second place in the Drivers’ Championship.  

With a few minutes left on the clock, Verstappen also switches to the soft compound. On his last flying lap, he sets the third time on the clock, behind Leclerc and Norris. The three-time World Champion has only driven sixteen laps in this session. The margins are small, Verstappen is only 0.173 seconds behind Leclerc. The big surprise of the session are the Alfa Romeos. Valterri Bottas sets the fourth fastest time, and Zhou Guanyu is in seventh.

Contest GP Abu Dhabi: win a by Max Verstappen signed Racing cap!

Results second free practice Abu-dhabi:

1Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:24.809 15
2Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:24.852+0.043s17
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:24.982+0.173s16
4Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.024+0.215s15
5Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:25.112+0.303s16
6George RussellRUSMercedes1:25.122+0.313s16
7Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:25.223+0.414s17
8Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:25.315+0.506s15
9Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1:25.321+0.512s14
10Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:25.361+0.552s17
11Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:25.397+0.588s16
12Daniel RicciardoRICAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:25.467+0.658s15
13Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:25.492+0.683s16
14Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:25.566+0.757s16
15Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:25.669+0.860s16
16Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:26.081+1.272s19
17Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:26.413+1.604s17
18Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes1:26.659+1.850s16
19Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:26.707+1.898s4
20Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:27.147+2.338s7