Fernando Alonso beat the Red Bull Racing drivers to the top spot in second practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix in another tantalizing glimpse of Aston Martin’s potential. The Spaniard hustled his AMR22 to a best time of 1m 30.907s, pipping Max Verstappen by 0.169s. Sergio Perez was a further 0.002s back in third.
Alonso and Verstappen also looked closely matched on long-run pace, which dominated the only practice session of the weekend run in representative night-time conditions — although most teams burned through their stocks of the soft tire to keep their two sets of the more durable hard rubber for Sunday’s race.
As much as it was good news for Aston Martin, Red Bull Racing didn’t look as settled as it did at last weekend’s test.
Verstappen wasn’t as comfortable in his car as under the floodlights. Early in the hour the Dutchman complained that the car was “jumping around a lot more than in testing” and he later suggested he was struggling with engine modes during his race simulation later on.
Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari at 0.46s off the pace despite complaining of clutch problems, just squeezing Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg into fifth by 0.009s.
Lance Stroll was sixth in the second Aston Martin and 0.543s off his teammate’s session-topping time. This was the Canadian’s first day back in the car since breaking his right wrist last week, and an exchange over team radio suggested he was struggling with mobility around the lap. Turn 1 appeared to be a particular problem, and on-board footage revealed he was navigating the corner with just one hand on the wheel.
Pierre Gasly was seventh in a more promising session for Alpine, pushing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes into eighth with a deficit of 0.636s.
Lando Norris was ninth in an hour of increased reliability, with Zhou Guanyu completing the top 10.
Esteban Ocon was 11th ahead of Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, with Carlos Sainz 14th in the second Ferrari.
Rookie Oscar Piastri was 15th, the Australian’s most notable moment a near collision with Stroll at Turn 1, where the Canadian had just meandered out of the pit lane and was cruising in the middle of the track.
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Kevin Magnussen struggled to find a setup sweet spot in his Haas, leaving him 16th ahead of Alex Albon’s Williams.
AlphaTauri teammates Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries were 18th and 19th, while rookie American Logan Sargeant completed the order in his Williams in 20th.