Title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton clashed in second practice at the US Grand Prix as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez emerged with the fastest time.
Verstappen called Hamilton a “stupid idiot” over the team radio after an incident in which the two raced side by side down the pit straight in the middle of the session.
Verstappen was told to “ignore it” by his race engineer Giampiero Lambiase.
Hamilton was third, his best lap deleted, while Verstappen was eighth.
Hamilton set the fastest time of the session but had it ruled out for marginally exceeding track limits at the final corner. The time he set was 0.1secs faster than Perez’s quickest time.
And Verstappen, who leads Hamilton by six points in the title race with six races to go, did not set a representative time at all and ended up eighth in a session in which he also uttered cross words at Lambiase after a mix-up over traffic, and then aborted a second attempt at a flying lap.
The incident between Hamilton and Verstappen happened when Hamilton passed the Red Bull going into the final corner.
The two then raced side by side down the pit straight, almost touching wheels, and into the first corner, before Hamilton claimed track position.
Perez was fastest by 0.257secs from McLaren’s Lando Norris, with Hamilton setting a fastest legitimate lap on tyres well past their best to be 0.364secs off the pace and 0.05secs quicker than team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who made a mistake on his fastest lap.
Bottas has a five-place grid penalty for using too many engine parts following an engine change.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and George Russell’s Williams also have engine penalties and will start from the back of the grid, their penalties bigger than Bottas’ because they have taken more parts.
Both Bottas and Perez had impressive days – they were the two quickest drivers on the long runs later in the second session, when drivers simulate the first stint of a race. Bottas was comfortably quicker than anyone else.
And the role of the number twos could be key in the remaining races as their teams battle for advantage in the championship.
Late in the session, there was an incident for Fernando Alonso, who spun his Alpine in the Esses and backed into the barrier, in the same fashion in which Leclerc had done in the first session.
Like Leclerc, he seemed to get away with it without damaging his car.
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