Prema’s Ollie Bearman set the pace in Formula 2 practice in Jeddah, which was shortened by a crash for Amaury Cordeel.
The first flying lap came in after almost 10 minutes of the 45-minute session had passed, with Bearman setting a 1m47.231s to lead PHM Racing by Charouz’s Roy Nissany by two tenths of a second.
Campos Racing’s Ralph Boschung then cut Bearman’s gap to a tenth of a second, before DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa lowered the pace into the 1m46s.
He was only briefly on top as MP Motorsport’s Jehan Daruvala bettered him by 0.014s and then ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins went 0.429s clear.
Bearman responded two minutes later by reclaiming first place, but in his tow was Trident’s Clement Novalak and Nissany who both went faster and lapped in the 1m45s.
Boschung went 0.770s faster to move into first place, and Nissany was shuffled down to fifth as Enzo Fittipaldi (Carlin), Richard Verschoor (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Daruvala all set 1m45.6s laps.
Martins returned to the top after 15 minutes, being the first to lap sub-1m45s, and Virtuosi Racing’s Jack Doohan jumped up to third place but almost six tenths of a second behind. Even further back was Martins’ championship-leading Theo Pourchaire, who was only 14th fastest.
The next flurry of improvements came in a few minutes later, with Prema’s Frederik Vesti slotting into third ahead of Bearman.
Boschung then set a shortly lived benchmark of 1m44.627s, as Daruvala followed up with a 1m44.523s lap and Martins then went half a second clear by becoming the first driver in the 1m43s.
As the session went into its second half, MP’s Dennis Hauger trimmed Martins’ advantage down to 0.271s and Daruvala improved in third place.
Martins responded by setting a 1m43.739s to move half a second clear again, and team-mate Pourchaire finally made his way into the top 10 as he went sixth fastest.
There were less drivers setting personal bests in the 10 minutes that followed, with many drivers heading back to the pits. Doohan went third fastest, then with 13 minutes to go Bearman toppled Martins by 0.238s.
Improvements in the bottom half of the top 10 knocked Pourchaire back down to 13th, and Vesti made it two Premas in the top three with 10 minutes to go by setting a 1m44.000s lap.
Martins returned to track and didn’t make an improvement before practice came to an early end with red flags. Virtuosi’s Cordeel had avoided a tangle with Hitech GP’s Isack Hadjar, but then when he went for a flying lap and hit the barriers exiting the turn 13 hairpin which sent him spinning across the track.
Just before the red flags, Vesti had moved up a spot to second and Campos’s Kush Maini had gone fourth fastest after being held up by PHM’s Brad Benavides. Pourchaire ended the session in 17th. All drivers completed the session on Pirelli’s medium tyres.
Free practice results
|3||Victor Martins||ART GP||1m43.739s||+0.238s||14|
|4||Kush Maini||Campos Racing||1m43.978s||+0.477s||16|
|5||Dennis Hauger||MP Motorsport||1m43.989s||+0.488s||15|
|8||Richard Verschoor||Van Amersfoort Racing||1m44.347s||+0.846s||15|
|9||Ralph Boschung||Campos Racing||1m44.354s||+0.853s||16|
|10||Jehan Daruvala||MP Motorsport||1m44.372s||+0.871s||15|
|15||Isack Hadjar||Hitech GP||1m44.735s||+1.234s||15|
|16||Jak Crawford||Hitech GP||1m44.746s||+1.245s||16|
|17||Theo Pourchaire||ART GP||1m44.827s||+1.326s||14|
|20||Roy Nissany||PHM by Charouz||1m45.059s||+1.558s||16|
|21||Juan Manuel Correa||Van Amersfoort Racing||1m45.446s||+1.945s||15|
|22||Brad Benavides||PHM by Charouz||1m47.407s||+3.906s||15|