FP2: Max sets up potential pole showdown with Ferrari

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in Friday FP2 running. Bahrain March 2022.

Max Verstappen takes part in free practice ahead of the season opener. Bahrain March 2022.

Max Verstappen took top spot in FP2 in Bahrain, less than a tenth ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari as the two were comfortably ahead of the rest.

Carlos Sainz was almost six tenths of a second behind the Red Bull driver in taking third place on the leaderboard, with George Russell’s Mercedes and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso rounding out the top five – and they were the only drivers within a second of the World Champion’s quickest effort.

After the teams got to grips with the Sakhir Circuit again in FP1, in which Pierre Gasly came out on top, the floodlights were on and the track surface cooled as the drivers took to the track in representative conditions they can expect in the race this weekend.

As a result, the circuit was a hive of activity as the drivers got straight out of the pits to set early laps on medium and hard tyres to begin with.

Alpine claimed they can turn their ‘porpoising’ effect on and off depending on what is a quicker set-up for them, but Esteban Ocon complained over team radio his car was “at the limit” when it came to bouncing on the start/finish straight before Lewis Hamilton also remarked about the bumpy ride in his Mercedes.

A ride on board the W13 saw Hamilton’s head bobbing up and down inside the cockpit, alongside an audible grind from under the car as it leapt up and down on the surface – leaving Mercedes with food for thought as they look to iron out what could be a significant issue throughout the field.

At the front, Leclerc held a half-second advantage over Verstappen and the rest of the field before qualifying simulations began, and it was not long before soft compound tyres were fitted for the cars to run in anger – albeit still using unknown engine modes before the teams’ full hands are shown on Saturday.

Alonso and Valtteri Bottas put themselves at the sharp end, but Leclerc flew six tenths clear of anyone else before Verstappen became the first driver to go into the 1:31s all weekend, 0.087s ahead of the Ferrari driver.

Russell popped himself into the top three with his qualifying sim, but Hamilton could not find the right balance and was heard on team radio highlighting a braking issue for Mercedes to fix.

But Russell was eventually bumped aside as Sainz took P3 with an extra qualifying run before the focus switched to longer stints for the remainder of the session.

Six teams were represented in the top 10 drivers after their flying laps, with both Haas cars impressing as Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen went P8 and P10 respectively.

Some performance may have remained hidden from other teams but both McLarens, Aston Martins, AlphaTauris and Williams cars all brought up the rear in FP2 – undoubtedly with work to do overnight.

Daniel Ricciardo only managed 12 laps in second practice as a water leak inside the MCL36 limited his running – hardly ideal for the Australian having sat out last week’s testing after contracting COVID-19.

 

 

Times

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31.936 20 laps
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.087s 20 laps
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.584s 21 laps
4 George Russell Mercedes 0.593s 24 laps
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.941s 24 laps
6 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 1.015s 29 laps
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1.022s 20 laps
8 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.149s 23 laps
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.208s 22 laps
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.247s 22 laps
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1.344s 26 laps
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.424s 25 laps
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.685s 24 laps
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.853s 26 laps
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 2.017s 26 laps
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 2.022s 24 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 2.125s 27 laps
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 2.230s 12 laps
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.550s 27 laps
20 Alex Albon Williams 2.799s 22 laps

 

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