Zhou tops day two of F1 pre-season testing; Mercedes hits trouble

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Zhou tops day two of F1 pre-season testing; Mercedes hits trouble

Formula 1

Zhou tops day two of F1 pre-season testing; Mercedes hits trouble


Zhou Guanyu posted a late lap time on soft tires to set the pace for Alfa Romeo on day two of pre-season testing in Bahrain, but there was concern for Mercedes as George Russell stopped on track.

Teams have shown remarkable levels of reliability so far in testing due to the limited changes to the rules compared to last year, but Russell led to only the second unintended red flag interruption of the week when he stopped with over 90 minutes of the afternoon session remaining. A hydraulic failure was the cause and meant Russell did not emerge again on the second day, leaving him with just 26 laps to his name.

It was a far busier driver who topped the times as Zhou completed 132 laps and put Alfa Romeo fastest overall using the softest C5 compound late in the day. Zhou’s time of 1m31.610s only just put him clear of Thursday pace-setter Max Verstappen, with Red Bull enjoying another encouraging day and ending up 0.04s away from leading the way once again.

Verstappen drove in the second session to complete his test running, with Sergio Perez carrying out all of the duties on the final day. Perez had already managed a race simulation in the morning as part of 76 laps completed and more impressive long-run mileage as Red Bull appears to be the clear benchmark at this stage.

Fresh from being second on Thursday, Fernando Alonso remained competitive with the third best time on Friday, and racked up 130 laps as he took the wheel for the full day for Aston Martin. Like Verstappen, Alonso used the C3 tire for his quickest time and was half a second off the Red Bull, with Aston enjoying an encouraging test so far.

Softer C4 tires were fitted on Nyck de Vries’ car as he ended up fourth for AlphaTauri, enjoying a productive afternoon with 74 laps to his name. That left him just 0.017s adrift of Alonso, after a brief spell in the second session when it was a Dutch one-two.

After losing some track time with a throttle issue on the opening day, Haas enjoyed trouble-free running and was fifth quickest through Nico Hulkenberg, also on the C4. The earlier problem was on Ferrari’s side and rectified by the power unit manufacturer overnight, allowing Kevin Magnussen to complete strong mileage in the morning and Haas total 135 laps.

Carlos Sainz was sixth for Ferrari, 0.3s quicker than teammate Charles Leclerc on the same C3 tire compound as there was more solid progress for the Scuderia but no real indication of pace despite unknown fuel loads, with Leclerc’s best lap being set at a similar time to Verstappen and over a second slower.

The Ferrari pair were split by Logan Sargeant on an impressive day for the American rookie. Sargeant completed the highest mileage with 154 laps and was within a second of the fastest time, although he too used the C5 tire.

Aside from Mercedes’ reliability concerns, there was a focus on McLaren’s apparent lack of pace on the day Zak Brown admitted the team had missed its development targets with its new car. McLaren is confident in its upgrade plan, but Oscar Piastri’s ninth-fastest time was part of lower fuel runs, while Lando Norris was 16th of the 17 drivers to set times — though notably on harder C2s — and pessimistic about the early potential.

By contrast, Alpine continued to make quiet progress through its testing program, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon 10th and 12th respectively, although both felt they could have completed more laps on the second day.

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