Listen to the third practice and qualifying session on the BBC Sport website on Saturday from 12:00 PM CET
Lewis Hamilton led Max Verstappen by 0.143 seconds and led the second practice session at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas’s second Mercedes was third fastest, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and the Alps of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
It is the first time this season that Hamilton has topped a training session.
“It’s going to be a close affair. I don’t know how Max’s lap was, but mine wasn’t perfect. It’s close so it’s exciting,” he said.
“It’s very windy today. I think everyone had problems sliding around out there. Everyone looks like they have problems with their balance. It was definitely a real challenge to keep the car on course.”
Bottas was 0.334 seconds behind Hamilton as less than 0.1 seconds separated the Finn from the three drivers immediately behind him.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was seventh ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. Aston Martins Lance Stroll and Perez completed the top 10.
All drivers had problems with the windy conditions near the coast and on a track that had been repaved before the first Grand Prix in Portimao last October.
Verstappen said, “It’s super slippery. I know it’s the same for everyone, but it’s not a lot of fun to drive. The car felt good. Some work for tomorrow, but overall it’s okay.”
“It’s very tricky out there and it’s a shame because it’s all about tire preparation and tire temperature and it shouldn’t be like that.”
Mercedes and Red Bull seemed to be closely coordinated both in one lap and in a longer race simulation run.
What about these Alps?
Training doesn’t always reflect true pace, but at first glance Alpine put on the most competitive show of the year to date on the undulating Portimao track in the Algarve.
The Anglo-French team, formerly known as Renault, which took three podiums in the second part of last season, were in the back of the midfield in the first two races of this season but brought some new aerodynamic parts to this race.
The front wing update introduced at the last Imola race has been expanded to include a new floor.
Alonso, who returned to Formula 1 this year after two years, had a tough time in Imola. After qualifying, he admitted he was “not fast” and promised to improve in Portugal.
And at first glance he seems to have done so, pointing the way for Alpine, if only 0.015 seconds faster than Ocon, who improved on his second lap of flight to get closer to the two-time champion after getting on his first run 0.2 seconds behind.
The 39-year-old, who had never raced at Portimao before, said he “enjoyed” the track, adding: “It’s been a good day of practice for me and the most pleasant I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola would have .
“I was happy with the car’s set-up pretty early in the day, so I mainly focused on getting used to the track and then evaluating the tires in the two sessions.”
Lando Norris, who is third in the championship behind Hamilton and Verstappen after finishing fourth and third in the first two races of the season for McLaren, said: “The Alps have been very fast. We had a big gap the last two weekends to the alps but this week they seem a lot more competitive.
“There are two more cars that we might drive. It’s exciting, but it makes our lives a little more difficult.”
Norris, who was twelfth fastest on Friday, said: “The car record may not be as good as it was on the last two weekends. So we still have a lot to do and are not confident of being in the top 10.” It’s a little harder than we expected. “
However, Alonso said: “I think the positions won’t be too different compared to Imola or Bahrain. I think there aren’t any big changes in the order. It’s just a shy Friday and a different approach than the teams but fingers . ” crossed we can keep up tomorrow. “
The long runs indicated that Ferrari and McLaren were fine-tuned in pace behind Mercedes and Red Bull, with the Alpine being a bit slower.
Sebastian Vettel can still find his feet in the second Aston Martin and was in 15th place.
The race simulation runs at the end of the session suggested that the race start tire of choice might be the medium – as has been the case with both races so far this year.
Hence, the leading teams will likely try to use this tire to set their times in Saturday’s second qualifying to ensure that this can be their link for the start of the race.