Sports Desk, Nov 13 (efe-epa).- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) was the fastest in both sessions of practice Friday for the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix, where Briton Lewis Hamilton can clinch a record-tying seventh world championship.
While the Dutchman prevailed in Free Practice 1, he – like the rest of the drivers – improved markedly in FP2, posting a lap of 1:28.330 around the track at Istanbul Park, which last hosted an F1 race nine years ago.
Monaco’s Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) was second, while the Mercedes duo of Finn Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton grabbed third and fourth place, respectively, after a poor FP1.
Not since the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have Mercedes failed to place a car in the top two spots in both FP1 and FP2.
Verstappen’s teammate, Alex Albon of Thailand, was fifth-fasted in FP2, followed by the two AlphaTauri drivers, Russia’s Daniil Kvyat and Frenchman Pierre Gasly.
German four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), who won the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix, finished eighth. Rounding out the top 10 were Canadian Lance Stroll (Racing Point) and Briton Lando Norris (McLaren).
The man replacing Vettel at Ferrari next season, Spaniard Carlos Sainz (McLaren), was 14th in FP2.
As was the case with the Portuguese Grand Prix, the tarmac covering the track in Istanbul is brand-new and Verstappen, despite his success, described the experience as “driving on ice.”
“Worse than Portimao (Portugal) by far, but at the end of the day it’s the same for everyone so you have to adapt to it,” he said after acknowledging that “for us, today was very positive.”
Verstappen, one of only two non-Mercedes drivers to win a race 13 rounds into the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season, is third in the driver standings, trailing Bottas by 35 points with 104 points available from the remaining events.
The 35-year-old Hamilton leads his Finnish teammate by 85 points.
With a victory on Sunday, Hamilton will match Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles two weeks after surpassing the German legend for most wins, 92, thanks to his triumph in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
But Hamilton can secure the championship without a podium finish in Istanbul, while Bottas needs to out-score his teammate by at least eight points to have any chance of catching him for the title.
“It was a bit of a disaster today to be honest,” Hamilton said after Friday’s sessions. “The track, it’s worse than Portimao was, when we had the new surface there, so for us at least, the tires aren’t working, and you see it, it’s like an ice rink out there, so you don’t get quite the enjoyment of the lap that you would normally get out of Istanbul. And I don’t see that changing.” EFE arh/dr