Fernando Alonso beat Max Verstappen to top spot in final practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix to set up an intriguing qualifying hour.
Alonso and Verstappen traded fastest sectors in the final 10 minutes of the session, with both unwrapping a new set of soft tires at roughly the same time, facilitating a direct comparison.
Verstappen had the upper hand in the first two sectors, but a snap of oversteer in the final corner ceded the advantage to Alonso, who snatched top spot by just 0.005s.
“Oh really?” Alonso replied over team radio when told he’d held first place. “Great.”
More was expected of Red Bull Racing after a relatively subdued pair of Friday practice sessions, but Verstappen still wasn’t happy with his car come Saturday afternoon.
“I have no grip,” he complained early in the hour while using the hard tire, which his expected to form the spine of strategy on Sunday, and his twitch in the final corner on his fastest lap suggested he still hadn’t found the car’s sweet spot by the end of the session.
Sergio Perez, however, found satisfaction in the unrepresentative daytime conditions ahead of night-time qualifying, taking third spot just 0.106s off the pace.
Lewis Hamilton was an unexpectedly competitive fourth at just 0.215s off Alonso’s benchmark. The Briton was experimenting with a lower downforce rear wing after a disappointing Friday.
Charles Leclerc completed the top five for Ferrari, 0.284s off the pace.
George Russell followed in sixth ahead of Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and Carlos Sainz in the sister Ferrari.
Oscar Piastri was a strong ninth for McLaren at 0.705s adrift, beating Alpine teammates Pierre Gasly, who complained of understeer, and Esteban Ocon by less than 0.1s.
Zhou Guanyu was the top Alfa Romeo driver in 12th ahead of Lando Norris and Haas pair Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.
Yuki Tsunoda led the way for AlphaTauri ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Williams duo Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon were 18th and 19th, with Nyck de Vries propping up the time sheet in 20th.