Valtteri Bottas ended the second day of pre-season testing on top in Bahrain, but it wasn’t a convincing day for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton caused a red flag.
After gearbox problems on Friday, Mercedes ran more reliably on Saturday but its gearbox still hit trouble in a customer team as Aston Martin lost most of the morning after also needing to replace the transmission.
A change in wind direction led to a lot of issues for drivers in the morning session, with Carlos Sainz sliding wide at Turn 7 before Nicholas Latifi followed a similar moment on one lap with a bigger spin the following time round.
Unlike day one, Turn 1 saw fewer errors but changes of direction were noticeably more challenging and Hamilton fell foul of the conditions when he spun at Turn 13, sliding backwards into the gravel. Unable to drive out, Hamilton’s error saw the session red-flagged for 15 minutes while the car was recovered, although he was soon back on track after the restart to complete more running in the final hour.
Hamilton’s running was largely high fuel, but Bottas took over for a productive afternoon and completed a number of soft tire runs, with a C5 effort – the softest Pirelli compound – late in the day sending him top on a 1:30.289.
Pierre Gasly was second fastest as Honda’s encouraging start to testing continued, the AlphaTauri driver just over 0.1s off Bottas on the same tire compound and adding 86 laps to Yuki Tsunoda’s 57 in the morning session. The top three was completed by Lance Stoll who also went for a soft-tire effort under the floodlights and posted a 1:30.460.
It's like @alo_oficial never left 🤩
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Stroll’s 71 laps will have been a greater source of encouragement for Aston Martin than the lap time. However, a gearbox issue confined Sebastian Vettel to the garage for most of the morning, managing just eight laps prior to a race start test.
McLaren once again looked strong as Lando Norris posted the fourth fastest time — just under 0.2s off Bottas — on the C4 tire compared to the C5 used by those above him. Norris was doing aerodynamic work earlier in the session having taken over from Daniel Ricciardo, who once again was quickest in the morning.
Antonio Giovinazzi was the fastest Ferrari-powered car, just under half a second back in fifth place, while Charles Leclerc was sixth but appeared to struggle slightly with the handling of the Ferrari in the afternoon.
There was a strange moment with a little under 90 minutes remaining as Sergio Perez pulled out to overtake Nicholas Latifi on the pit straight and saw one half of his engine cover ripped off by the air pressure change as he emerged from the slipstream. The cover shattered into a number of pieces and was scattered all over the circuit, with Fernando Alonso driving through it and a red flag being required to clear the debris.
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No sooner had the track gone green and fast laps started, then Nicholas Latifi had an odd spin at Turn 1. Latifi appeared to go into anti-stall as he locked the rears under braking, and managed to turn the car away from the barrier but spun before he made the corner. That didn’t stop the Canadian completing the most laps by a single driver, however, with 132 to his name and the seventh-fastest time.
The engine cover issue was the only real cause of concern for Red Bull as Perez got up to speed with his new team, adding 128 laps to the 139 completed by Max Verstappen on Friday, and not setting a time on either of the softest two compounds as he finished eighth.
The most mileage went to Haas as Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin combined for 163 laps, thought they ended up 12th and 14th, with only Hamilton and Vettel below the Russian.