F1 Testing 2024: Ferrari strike back at Red Bull as Carlos Sainz sets new benchmark

Jamie Woodhouse
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez during Bahrain testing.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

Day 2 of Bahrain testing belonged firmly to Carlos Sainz and Ferrari, putting serious doubt into the ‘Max Verstappen is World Champion already’ theory.

Albeit armed with a grade softer tyres in the C4, Sainz and Ferrari sent a clear message to Red Bull by going a second-and-a-half faster than Verstappen’s unnerving Day 1-topping time, with Sergio Perez over seven-tenths back in P2, following a disrupted day at the wheel of Red Bull’s RB20.

Lewis Hamilton was able to ensure his place in the top three, despite that Mercedes W15 proving quite the handful.

Carlos Sainz and Ferrari set new time to beat in Bahrain

Considering his morning session dramas, it was fitting that Leclerc got the action underway for the extended afternoon action, heading out as the light went green for a session which would run from 1400-1900 local time.

After a half-hour stint, Leclerc’s work was complete and the scheduled handover of the Ferrari SF-24 to team-mate Carlos Sainz took place.

Logan Sargeant was continuing to struggle with the handling of his Williams FW46, suffering a heavy lock-up down at Turn 10 just after the first hour-mark, but no such trouble for Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sainz who were ensuring some movement in the top three, Sainz narrowing Leclerc’s buffer to one-tenth.

Esteban Ocon was unlocking pace in the Alpine, somehow, following a front-tyre killing lock-up on his C1s, while Hamilton, in pursuit of a P1-troubling time, was also finding it tricky down at Turn 4 as he suffered a nasty snap in that W15. Well held! All the while Lando Norris had popped himself up to P3.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 schedule: When is the next F1 race and where is it being held?

F1 tickets: How much will it cost F1 fans to watch a race in 2024?

But as the extended session hit its two-hour point, we had a new pacesetter as Sainz clocked a 1:31.397, making it a Ferrari one-two, Sainz ultimately getting his P1 time all the way down to a 1:29.921 on a set of C4s.

There were also further woes for Sergio Perez to add to his earlier brake fire frustrations, as his RB20 crawled out of the penultimate corner, forcing him to use the benefit of that downhill section to trundle painfully slowly back to the pits.

He was able to return to the track for the final couple of hours of running and even pulled an overtake on Bottas’ Kick Sauber down at Turn 1 for good measure.

Norris and Hamilton had both enjoyed stints up in P2, until Perez took over that spot for himself, seven-and-a-half-tenths off Sainz’s benchmark.

Hamilton was looking to change that situation at the front as he went out on new C3s, only for the Virtual Safety Car, Safety Car and flag procedure tests to start with 15 minutes left, scuppering that plan.

It was not the end of the action though, with a Lap 1-style squabble for position squeezing into the closing moments to whet our appetites for what is to come next weekend.

Sainz’s 1:29.921 remained the standard then and a second-and-a-half faster than Verstappen’s eye-opening P1 time on Day 1, Sainz and Ferrari showed it is still far too early to be crowning Verstappen a four-time World Champion.

Bahrain F1 2024 testing Day 2 times

[All quickest times set on C3 tyres unless stated]

1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:29.921 84 laps [C4]
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.758 129
3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.145 123
4 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.335 52
5 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +1.440 88 [C4]
6 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +1.829 54
7 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +2.108 96
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +2.140 78
9 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber +2.306 97
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.407 35
11 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.657 117
12 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +3.132 31
13 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +3.794 38
14 Pierre GASLY Alpine +3.883 33
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +6.690 93
16 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +7.588 31
17 Yuki TSUNODA RB +8.153 40