Max Verstappen has lit up second practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix, putting Red Bull Racing at the top of the time sheet ahead of both Ferraris.
Verstappen, who was quickest at this track at the end of preseason testing, lowered the benchmark from earlier in the day to 1m31:936s. But he was pursued closely by Charles Leclerc, whose Ferrari was just 0.087s slower. Leclerc’s best time was set on five-lap old tires and the fifth lap of a qualifying simulation run, suggesting that the C3 compound is holding its own in Bahrain this season. Indeed, the majority of the field completed competitive long-run simulations on the red-walled rubber in the second half of the session, with Verstappen’s race pace in particular looking strong.
Carlos Sainz followed around half a second further back, and the Spaniard was just 0.009s ahead of George Russell in the leading Mercedes. Russell was the happier of the two Silver Arrows – or perhaps the least uncomfortable – with Lewis Hamilton struggling his way to ninth in the other car. Frantic set-up work between practice sessions briefly delayed his start to FP2, but the Briton was quickly on team radio complaining that the car was “still bouncing a lot” — a reference to the porpoising at the end of the straight, which Mercedes is having difficulty dialing out of the car.
He later radioed his engineer that he was dealing with a front brake problem, with his right-front pulling under braking, though he was otherwise unencumbered in clocking up 23 laps in the hour.
Fernando Alonso was fifth for Alpine but 0.941s off Verstappen’s pace, and Valtteri Bottas came next in the order for Alfa Romeo with a session-high 30 laps after essentially losing all of FP1 to engine problems.
Sergio Perez was a second behind his teammate in seventh, with Mick Schumacher’s Haas slotting between the Mexican and Hamilton to take eighth spot. His teammate, Kevin Magnussen, completed the top 10, the returning Dane 1.2s off the pace.
Lando Norris completed an underwhelming day for McLaren in 11th ahead of Esteban Ocon and AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, the Italian-made car having none of the pace it boasted during daylight hours.
Worse still, Tsunoda is subject to a stewards investigation for appearing to block Charles Leclerc on the apex of Turn 8. The Ferrari was on a fast lap but was forced to check up on the apex, where the Japanese driver was holding the line.
Tsunoda was then caught up in a second incident at the same corner when he attempted to dive down the inside of Lance Stroll, making contact with the left side of his front wing.
Zhou Guanyu was 15th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Stoll and Hulkenberg for Aston Martin. Hulkenberg was an impressive 0.1s behind Stroll despite this being his first day in the new car, having been called up yesterday to replace COVID-positive Sebastian Vettel.
Daniel Ricciardo was 18th but restricted to 12 laps with a water leak, while Nicholas Latifi and Alex Albon completed the order for Williams in 19th and 20th.