Max Verstappen usurped Mercedes’s Friday practice control to take a slender advantage into qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Dutchman set his best time of 54.064s on his first flying lap on soft tires for the evening, having run on the hard compound until late in the session. It put the Red Bull Racing driver 0.206s ahead of Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas, though the Finn surrendered at least a tenth of a second running wide past the curbs at the final corner of his best lap.
The two most likely rivals for victory this weekend were streets ahead of their teammates. Alex Albon in the second Red Bull Racing car was sixth and 0.565s off the pace, while George Russell — having topped both Friday practice sessions — slipped to seventh and 0.6s adrift in his Mercedes.
The top 15 drivers were split by less than 0.8s around the super-fast 2.202-mile circuit, and timing was everything in embarking on a lap, particularly in the flurry of soft-shod activity in the final 10 minutes, However, fears for mass impeding as drivers tried to best position themselves on the track ultimately failed to materialize.
Maximizing the busy circuit was AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who finished third in the standings and 0.363s off the pace. He beat Renault’s Esteban Ocon to the place by 0.026s. Lando Norris followed 0.542s behind in fifth for McLaren ahead of Albon and Russell.
Racing Point teammates Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were closely matched in eighth and ninth and fractionally ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz in 10th. Antonio Giovinazzi was 11th for Alfa Romeo ahead of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat.
Charles Leclerc was 0.79s off the pace for Ferrari after a late spin on soft tires. It put him 0.003s quicker than Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who failed to reverse his lackluster Friday form, which the team put down to an experimental setup.
Sebastian Vettel followed in the second Ferrari in 15th, though the German retired from the session early so his team could begin a precautionary power unit change ahead of qualifying.
Kimi Raikkonen was 16th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Haas drive Kevin Magnussen.
Nicholas Latifi was the fastest Williams driver ahead of rookies Pietro Fittipaldi for Haas and Jack Aitken in the second Williams.
Fittipaldi, who had the track to himself for the first 12 minutes as he continued acclimatizing to his car on his first weekend in Formula 1, was equipped with a new battery and control electronics system for his power unit. It took his car — having belonged to Romain Grosjean before him — beyond his maximum allocation for the season, which will earn him a grid penalty for qualifying later today.