Bahrain Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton heads Mercedes FP2 1-2 as Max Verstappen down in P6

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15 during Bahrain practice.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15.

Lewis Hamilton headed an impressive Mercedes one-two in the second Bahrain Grand Prix practice session, as Max Verstappen’s P6 left plenty of intrigue surrounding Red Bull.

Hamilton’s 1:30.374 ensured that he ended the second hour of Bahrain GP practice on top, with Mercedes team-mate George Russell slotting into P2 to pump the encouragement into Mercedes after the opening day of F1 2024 track action.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso completed the top three, as Verstappen in P6 left us with many questions heading into qualifying, as we wait to see whether Red Bull are still hiding the true performance of that RB20.

Lewis Hamilton heads encouraging Mercedes one-two

As the sun dipped below the horizon, the floodlights took hold around the Bahrain International Circuit for FP2, giving us conditions far more representative of what the drivers will face come qualifying and Grand Prix Saturday.

Valtteri Bottas’ Sauber was the first to roar out onto the track, though was swiftly noted by the stewards for a potential pit-lane infringement, that turning into an investigation as it became clear that Bottas had crossed the pit exit line before the light went green.

Meanwhile, Mercedes and Ferrari were going at it to set the early pace on the soft rubber, Hamilton comfortably winning the opening exchanges by eight-tenths over Charles Leclerc, as Alonso proceeded to slot his Aston Martin into P2, three-tenths off Hamilton’s pace.

Hamilton was still sitting pretty out front after reigning World Champion Verstappen delivered his first push lap on the softs, Verstappen falling half a second short, while Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen were struggling to keep the Ferrari and Haas respectively on the road through the final corner, Leclerc requesting a check of the floor on his Ferrari SF-24 after that rough ride over the kerbs.

For Russell in the Mercedes, Turn 11 was proving tricky to negotiate as he kicked up the sand in the run-off, as Verstappen complained of “too much air coming into my helmet”.

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Despite the turbulence, Verstappen was able to improve to the top three, though as the session approached its halfway mark, the gap to Hamilton in P1 was still a large one at four-tenths, which soon saw Verstappen drop back down the order.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri had been at the back of the pack with their focus on the medium tyres, as Norris dropped a reminder that McLaren needed to change his steering wheel for the next run.

With Piastri going P3, just 0.03s shy of Hamilton upon McLaren’s switch to soft rubber,  Norris lapping 1.8 seconds off his team-mate showed that the steering wheel swap was clearly needed, while McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown confirmed that a “big” mistake in the last sector also did Norris no favours.

Hamilton soon responded though by unlocking another four-tenths, Leclerc complaining that a slow-moving Lance Stroll hindered his response efforts through Turn 1. Verstappen meanwhile returned his deficit to Hamilton to just over four-tenths.

And Mercedes soon had a one-two to admire, Russell delivering a clean run to P2, a couple of tenths adrift of Hamilton, while a “sleeping” Williams this time irked Leclerc as Logan Sargeant just ahead required the run-off at Turn 10.

From there, the focus switched to Saturday evening preparations as race simulations became the order of the day.

FP2 times

1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes 1:30.374
2 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.206
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.286
4 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.395
5 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.410
6 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.477
7 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.510
8 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.517
9 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.739
10 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.741
11 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.959
12 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +1.142
13 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.341
14 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.390
15 Yuki TSUNODA RB +1.507
16 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.577
17 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber +1.627
18 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.653
19 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +1.674
20 Lando NORRIS McLaren +2.234

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