Saudi Arabian GP: Fernando Alonso tops Practice Two for Aston Martin with Lewis Hamilton warned, Mercedes fined

Aston Martin finish ahead of Mercedes at the top of Thursday’s second practice session in Jeddah; Lewis Hamilton warned and Mercedes fined after Logan Sargeant near-miss; watch qualifying on Friday at 5pm on Sky Sports F1; Saudi Arabian GP on Saturday at 5pm

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Lewis Hamilton apologised after nearly colliding with Logan Sargeant during the second practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso put Aston Martin on top of the timesheets for the first time in the new 2024 Formula 1 season as the Spaniard and Mercedes’ George Russell both outpaced Max Verstappen in Practice Two for the Saudi Arabian GP.

Alonso, who finished only ninth at last week’s season-opening race in Bahrain, had already impressed to go second-fastest to Verstappen in first practice around the high-speed Jeddah street track before setting the outright pace on a 1:28.827 in the second session under the floodlights.

Russell was 0.230s back in second with Verstappen, the dominant victor at last Saturday’s season-opener, a further tenth adrift in the lead Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc took fourth for Ferrari ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, Alonso’s team-mate, to confirm Aston Martin’s strong start to the event.

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Lewis Hamilton was eighth, 0.677s off the pace, and was given a warning by stewards for impeding with his Mercedes team fined €15,000 (£12,800) following a high-speed near-miss with Williams’ Logan Sargeant during the session.

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A look at all of the chaotic close calls during second practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was running slowly in his Mercedes on a cool-down lap and was going through Turn 10 when Sargeant came up rapidly on a faster timed lap behind him, with the American having to take avoiding action over the right-hand kerb to avoid a collision.

Ruling on the incident after speaking to Hamilton, Sargeant and respective team representatives after the session, stewards said that had the Williams not taken evasive action it would have resulted in “a serious, high speed crash”

“Having listened to the team radio, it was clear to us that the team of Car 44 [Hamilton] failed to warn their driver of the fact that Car 2 [Sargeant] was arriving on a fast lap,” read a stewards’ statement.

“That was a serious failure on the part of the team, particularly given the speeds on this circuit and the nature of turn 11, which is at the end of a series of high speed corners where driver visibility is impaired. We therefore issue a warning to the driver and impose a fine of €15,000 to the team.”

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A deflated Lewis Hamilton says he’s lacking confidence in the rear of the car after a difficult day of practice in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking after the incident on Williams team radio, Sargeant had said: “Mate, come on! It’s too dangerous.

For his part, Hamilton said over Mercedes team radio: “I didn’t realise someone was on a lap. I was trying to get out of the way for Sainz and all of a sudden there was a Williams there.”

Sainz, who had been following close behind Hamilton as Sargeant came up quickly behind both of them, said: “What Hamilton did there was super dangerous. Like he was in the middle, I couldn’t get out of the way.

“Sargeant nearly crashed because of him.”

That was one of several instances of near-misses during the session on the wall-lined circuit which features several blind corners, with a big differential in speed between drivers on fast and slow laps. The incidents are likely to be discussed in Thursday evening’s drivers’ briefing.

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Valtteri Bottas spins off track but manages to readjust during the second practice session in Saudi Arabia

Alonso makes impressive start but Verstappen remains big favourite

The unexpected stars of the opening stages of last season, when Alonso finished on the podium in each of the opening three grands prix, Aston Martin experienced a relatively anti-climatic start to 2024 with their new AMR24 car in Bahrain last week and were firmly the fifth-quickest team in the opening race.

But the season’s second race week has started more promisingly, with Alonso quick and consistent in both of Thursday’s session. Stroll, who clipped the wall in the day-time opening session, also ran promisingly.

“That lap from Alonso looks like a cracker, doesn’t it?” said Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok.

“Half a second ahead of Stroll, a big chunk ahead of Leclerc.

“Fernando has been consistently up there all day. He has arrived this weekend on a bit of a mission I’d say.”

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Fernando Alonso says he felt good after coming out the fastest during practice in Saudi Arabia.

Alonso himself said it had been a “good Thursday for us” but played down their position at the head of the timesheet.

“We are faster in free practice than in qualifying, I think we run a different strategy in terms of fuel loads, engine modes and so on,” he said.

“We keep our programme ahead, not really any issues with the car, set-up possibilities also quite open for [Friday]. But definitely a good Thursday for us.”

With Mercedes finishing the opening day’s running second fastest, that left Red Bull only third, although Verstappen’s long-run pace on heavier fuel late in the session again appeared comfortably superior to his would-be rivals.

“The pace has been alright. FP2 – long run, short run, I think overall we learned a lot again,” said the world champion.

“Of course there are always things you look at to do better over one-lap performance, but also I think some teams already used a little bit more power, like they did in Bahrain, so we take that also into consideration.

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Max Verstappen reflects on a successful day of practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“But when we went into the long runs, it looked again quite nice. So I’m quite happy with that.

“I feel quite good (about qualifying) but it will be again very tight. I think that is probably where other people are a bit better than us, over one lap, and our car probably comes a bit more alive on the long run.”

McLaren, meanwhile, finished second practice in 10th (Oscar Piastri) and 12th (Lando Norris) places respectively but Zak Brown is optimistic they will be in stronger shape than that ahead of Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s race.

“I think we were a little bit more competitive (than we showed) in Bahrain but we didn’t quite get our qualifying laps together,” said McLaren’s chief executive.

“Here I feel like we’re maybe a little bit closer to the front than we were in Bahrain. But I hope I don’t eat my words now that I’ve made a little bit of a prediction.”

Saudi Arabian GP Practice Two Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:28.827
2) George Russell Mercedes +0.230
3) Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.331
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.353
5) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.473
6) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.509
7) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.628
8) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.677
9) Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.701
10) Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.767
11) Yuki Tsunoda RB +0.839
12) Lando Norris McLaren +0.931
13) Zhou Guanyu Sauber +0.950
14) Alex Albon Williams +0.962
15) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.074
16) Logan Sargeant Williams +1.107
17) Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.158
18) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1.250
19) Daniel Ricciardo RB +1.261
20) Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1.326

Sky Sports F1’s live Saudi Arabian GP schedule

Friday March 8

  • 11.55am: F1 Academy Race 1
  • 1.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 3.05pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 4.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying build-up

Saturday March 9

  • 12pm: F1 Academy Race 2
  • 1.20pm: F2 Feature Race
  • 3.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 7pm: Saudi Arabian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 9.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP highlights

Watch the second round of the new F1 season – the Saudi Arabian GP – live on Sky Sports F1 this coming week, with qualifying on Friday and the race at 5pm on Saturday. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership for just £21 a month for 12 months

Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office with the main event expected around 11pm. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!


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