Qatar GP: Valtteri Bottas sets Practice Two pace with Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton behind Pierre Gasly too
Watch the Qatar GP live across the weekend only on Sky Sports F1, with Qualifying at 2pm on Saturday; Valtteri Bottas fastest in evening session from Pierre Gasly, who finishes second quickest again at Losail; Verstappen ahead of Hamilton behind Friday's leading duo
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 19/11/21 7:09pm
Max Verstappen outpaced Lewis Hamilton in second practice at the inaugural Qatar GP - but the title contenders finished third and fourth on the timesheet, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas leading the way.
The opening day of F1 running on the Losail International Circuit, a track that proved dusty but incredibly smooth, saw Red Bull and Mercedes top one session apiece against the backdrop of rumbling off-track rows between the championship rivals.
After Verstappen led the morning timesheet - and then avoided a full stewards' investigation into his driving against Hamilton when they battled for the lead in Brazil last week - it was Bottas who took over at the top in the evening under the circuit's floodlights.
- Full Practice Two results
- Sky F1's live Saturday and Sunday schedule at the Qatar GP
- World championship standings
- Red Bull threaten protest over Mercedes rear wing
Posting a best lap on the soft tyres of 1:23.148, Bottas' closest rival was actually AlphaTauri's impressive Pierre Gasly who finished second-quickest in both of Friday's sessions.
Verstappen's third-quickest time was 0.350s slower than Bottas, while Hamilton was a further tenth away from his team-Mercedes mate.
"I'm off, so I'm definitely not close," admitted Hamilton, who was even further off the leading pace in P1.
"At the moment I'm a little bit slow so I need to figure that out tonight."
Verstappen, who had topped the morning session said: "[P2] was of course the first time in the evening so it was important to understand how the car would react. Quite a change between the medium and soft tyre for me, that's why I think on the soft tyre it wasn't amazing. But it's the first time here, so a lot of things to understand."
Lando Norris posted a strong fifth-quickest time for McLaren with Lance Stroll sixth on an encouraging opening day for Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda made it two AlphaTauris in a top six on a circuit that features a number of high-speed corners and a long high-speed pit straight.
Sergio Perez was eighth fastest in the second Red Bull.
Encouraging starts for both of the grid's big two
Although F1's reigning champions appeared to again settle in particularly well to the weekend, the respective advantages enjoyed by Red Bull and Mercedes in each of the day's two sessions possibly point to a closer duel between them on pure pace over the weekend than was the case on the previous two legs of this Mexico-Brazil-Qatar triple header.
"It's nice to see that they are both feeling confident after today," said Sky F1's Paul Di Resta in comparison analysis of the teams' fastest P2 laps.
"It's just going to be who is going to get the most out of their packages."
Red Bull continue to voice complaints over Mercedes' rear wing and how their rivals are generating strong straight-line speed, accusations their rivals say are unfounded.
Assessing his car's performance on Friday, Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky F1: "You could see Valtteri was looking pretty sharp out there. I think there are a few areas we can improve...but generally a reasonable day for us."
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes' trackside engineering director, said: "Valtteri has been the man.
"We've got a bit of work to get Lewis there but it's an encouraging Friday from that point of view.
"Red Bull will be working on their problems but we've got to make sure that whatever advantage we've got, we keep it."
Saturday's live action on Sky Sports F1 starts with final practice at 11am, with Qualifying following at 2pm after an hour's worth of build-up.
Qatar GP Practice Two Timesheet
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:23.148|
|2) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+0.209|
|3) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.350|
|4) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.422|
|5) Lando Norris||McLaren||+0.484|
|6) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+0.557|
|7) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+0.587|
|8) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.639|
|9) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+0.872|
|10) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.885|
|11) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+0.893|
|12) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+0.908|
|13) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.947|
|14) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+0.987|
|15) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.483|
|16) George Russell||Williams||+1.806|
|17) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1.924|
|18) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+2.061|
|19) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+2.427|
|20) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||No time set|