Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were separated by just 0.035s as Ferrari continued to enjoy a strong start to practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Fresh from being nearly a second clear of the field during the opening session, Ferrari remained on top in FP2 with Vettel leading the way on a 1m28.846s. Leclerc had topped FP1 but had to settle for second place, although he cut the gap to his teammate on a second soft-tire run as the Scuderia attempted to make the most of the representative conditions.
FP2 took place at the same time as qualifying and the race, leading Ferrari to use more soft tires, while its rivals carried out just one low-fuel run on softs. The gap to Mercedes came down compared to the earlier session but was still significant, with Lewis Hamilton third fastest but 0.603s adrift of Vettel’s time.
Vettel didn’t have a completely trouble-free session, however, as he spun exiting Turn 2 fairly early in his long run and had to recover to the pits on a set of ruined tires, cutting short his high fuel running on the soft compound.
Valtteri Bottas had to settle for fourth after aborting his first attempt at a soft-tire lap due to traffic and a twitch in the first sector, with the Finn posting a 1m29.557s.
There was a slight surprise in fifth as Nico Hulkenberg produced an encouraging lap for Renault, beating the two Honda-powered Red Bulls with a 1m29.669s. Hulkenberg was just 0.056s quicker than Max Verstappen, but Pierre Gasly complained of issues with his engine braking and was down in 12th place.
Seventh was Kevin Magnussen in the Haas — 0.3s adrift of the Hulkenberg and Verstappen times — ahead of Lando Norris in eighth. Norris was only 0.017s slower than Magnussen but had to end his running slightly prematurely due to a reliability concern.
Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10, with both drivers within 0.1s of Magnussen’s time as the midfield battle continues to look extremely close in Bahrain.
One team that has previously been in that battle is Alfa Romeo, but the former Sauber team hit reliability problems with both drivers. Kimi Raikkonen spun at Turn 2 just after leaving the pits early in the session and put that error down to cold tires, but then both he and teammate Antonio Giovinazzi suffered leaks that confined them to the garage and limited the team to a total of 16 laps.
There was some encouragement for Williams as the gap to the midfield continued to come down, with George Russell 19th fastest and three seconds off Vettel but only 0.8s away from Raikkonen, Lance Stroll and Giovinazzi ahead of him.