F1 Qatar GP live commentary and updates - FP1 & FP2

Live updates from the F1 practice sessions at Qatar

F1 Qatar GP live commentary and updates - FP1 & FP2

By: Jake Boxall-Legge, James Newbold

Summary

Summary
  • Bottas fastest in FP2 for Qatar GP from Gasly and Verstappen
  • Mazepin misses session as cracked chassis is replaced
  • Verstappen earlier tops FP1 from Gasly, as F1 makes its first visit to the Losail circuit
  • Mercedes' request to review Verstappen's defence against Hamilton in Brazilian GP is rejected by stewards
Leaderboard 
1. Bottas, Mercedes 
2. Gasly, AlphaTauri
3. Verstappen, Red Bull
4. Hamilton, Mercedes 
5. Norris, McLaren
6. Stroll, Aston Martin
7. Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
8. Perez, Red Bull 
9. Vettel, Aston Martin
10. Sainz, Ferrari
Status: Stopped
That'll be all from us today. Make sure you join us tomorrow for FP3 and the all-important qualifying session as the intensity of the title fight promises to reach new heights amid the latest war of words between Red Bull and Mercedes. We'll see you then!
Here's the full report from FP2, in case you missed any of the action, as Valtteri Bottas took top spot with a new circuit record: https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/f1-qatar-gp-bottas-tops-fp2-from-gasly-and-verstappen/6798869/
So what did we make of the first day of on-track action at Qatar? First impressions are that the track is fast and flowing, but might be tricky for cars to pass on.
 
Raikkonen and Giovinazzi have 16th-place man Russell in an Alfa Romeo sandwich, with Latifi in the second Williams beating Schumacher's lone Haas to P18.
Alpine drivers Ocon and Alonso are 11th and 12th quickest, with Leclerc 13th ahead of Ricciardo in the second McLaren.
Stroll made it five different cars in the top six for Aston Martin ahead of Tsunoda in the second AlphaTauri in seventh, with Perez eighth, Vettel ninth and Sainz rounding out the top 10 for Ferrari.
FP1 pace-setter Verstappen set the third-quickest time, just ahead of arch-rival Hamilton in fourth as Norris completed the top five for McLaren.
In an eventful session for Leclerc, we've just been informed that he's been handed a €200 fine for pitlane speeding.
And with that, FP2 has reached its conclusion - with Bottas on top for Mercedes and Gasly completing a strong day with second once again.
The track limits deletions are ramping up at Turn 7, as Leclerc joins Alonso from just a few minutes ago in having a time scrubbed.
"There has to be one half of the circuit completely empty, no? Because I have cars again, in front." Alonso isn't impressed by the traffic situation as the session winds down.
That will be an unwelcome bit of work for the Ferrari mechanics tonight, as they'll have to clear out all the ancillaries of the small stones he picked up on his travels.
Leclerc has had a strange moment exiting Turn 10 and run through the gravel running parallel to the track after dipping his right-front wheel onto the grass. Looked fairly innocuous, but it just pulled him in and he was powerless to prevent it.
One of the best underrated things about night racing, in my view, is the steering wheel cams that show us the drivers' eyes through their clear visors. Lazer-focused attention from Hamilton there.
Will we see any further improvements in the final 10 minutes? It doesn't appear likely at this stage, although several teams are currently using the soft rubber - including Red Bull, which sends Verstappen out after a spell in the garage.
Bottas looks content with his evening's work as he's currently running around on the medium tyre - he has improved on the time he had struck off earlier for track limits with a 1m23.148s.
Could there be trouble ahead for Gasly? He's asked to make a switch on his steering wheel by his engineer, who says with urgency in his voice: "We see something we don't like".
"The wind has rotated, it's a headwind out of Turn 2," Bottas is informed over his radio.
Gasly's pace in going second-fastest in FP1 and currently holding that position points to a really strong weekend for AlphaTauri in its continued push to snatch fifth in the constructors' points from Alpine. Gasly currently has the fastest final sector of anybody so far, Bottas quickest in the first two.
The Red Bull is an utter joy to watch on-board through the fast treble right-hander section of Turns 12, 13 and 14 - which remind me a bit of an inverse Istanbul Turn 8. Verstappen improves to go third fastest on a 1m23.498s, still behind Bottas and FP1 runner-up Gasly.
Just under 20 minutes remaining in the session now. Will we get a response from Red Bull, as Verstappen goes for another run on softs?
Traditions... 
 
"Okay, that was useless - Hamilton didn't get out of the way," complains Vettel, who also gets baulked by Perez who lifts his hand out of the cockpit in apology. The many corners of this circuit mean it's quite easy to get caught out by a slow-moving car, so engineers will have to be a bit more on it with their warnings to avoid a Tsunoda/Mexico-style situation.
Verstappen's first flyer on the soft lifts him to fourth, but still behind Bottas, Gasly and Hamilton. It's a 1m23.579s for the Red Bull man, who appeared to go a bit wide exiting Turn 10.
Good to see F2 points leader Oscar Piastri is taking his new role as Alpine reserve driver seriously: 
 
Super slow-mo shots of Perez on the pit straight show the top edge of his rear wing flapping to an alarming degree. Marginal gains, and all that, or something to be concerned about?
Perez was going for a hot lap, but encountered traffic around the Turns 4-5 double right complex that reminds me a bit of Sepang/Misano before backing out on the exit of Turn 6.
Still, the Finn remains quickest courtesy of his 1m23.324s from earlier on. Gasly is now his nearest challenger, the Frenchman punching in a 1m23.357s.
Bottas's 1m23.154s lap has been deleted for running wide over the kerb at Turn 7 - the Finn isn't happy, and claims that corner wasn't subject to track limits earlier on. "It would have been nice to know before Michael," he pointedly tells race director Masi over the radio.
Norris now moves up to third with a 1m23.632s, less than a tenth behind Hamilton.
Replays show Gasly has a huge moment of opposite lock that he has to chase all the way out to the edge of the tarmac run-off where it meets the gravel. Thankfully for his mechanics, he doesn't repeat what Schumacher did earlier and keeps it on the black stuff.
Tsunoda meanwhile has moved up to fourth on a 1m23.735s, while team-mate Gasly runs wide at the final corner Turn 16 and has his lap deleted.
Bottas bangs in a 1m23.154s, while Hamilton only makes a small improvement to a 1m23.570s and stays second.
On the soft, Stroll moves up to third on a 1m23.705s - behind only the medium-shod Mercedes efforts from earlier. Now what can the Mercedes pair do on softs?
In fact, everybody out on track currently is on the softs, including Hamilton, the two AlphaTauris, Alonso, the two Aston Martins, and Sainz.
Ocon's first effort on the softs lifts him to fifth, with a 1m24.041s. Bottas, the current pace-setter, has also headed out on the red-walled tyres.
 
First sign of soft tyres in this session - Ocon, Latifi and Schumacher have all bolted on a set of the red-wall tyres, so don't be surprised to see them leap up the leaderboard in the coming minutes.
Giovinazzi has asked his Alfa team to check his floor after running wide a few times over the kerbs, which look rather unforgiving here. Indeed, replays show a bit of bodywork came off as he traversed one.