FP2: Alonso leads Verstappen during second practice in Bahrain as track action ramps up
Fernando Alonso set the pace in Friday evening’s second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, slotting ahead of Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez as Aston Martin continue to catch the eye ahead of the new F1 season.
After a baking hot mid-afternoon opening practice hour, the sun set and floodlights switched on over the Sakhir circuit for FP2 – bringing more representative conditions which will also be seen Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race.
Across two spells of qualifying-style runs, it was Alonso who charged to the top of the timesheets by clocking a 1m 30.907s on soft tyres, finishing 0.169s clear of reigning world champion Verstappen, with Perez 0.002s further back.
Some frustration also crept in at Red Bull following a faultless pre-season, with Verstappen taking to the radio early in the session to comment that his RB19 was “jumping around a lot more than testing”.
FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 2 results
|1 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||1:30.907|
|2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.169s|
|3 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.171s|
|4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.460s|
|5 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Haas F1 Team||+0.469s|
It remains to be seen what fuel loads and engine modes are in play at this stage, while Alonso’s benchmark remained some six-tenths slower than the 1m 30.305s Perez posted on the final day of last week’s test session.
Behind Alonso’s pace-setting Aston Martin and the Red Bull drivers, Charles Leclerc was the quickest of the Ferraris in fourth position, followed by high-flying F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) and the other AMR23 of Lance Stroll.
Stroll returned to the cockpit on Friday after missing pre-season testing due to injuries sustained in a training accident, but the plastered up Canadian finished half a second off team mate Alonso.
Pierre Gasly put his temporarily pink Alpine seventh, with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton eighth after a low-key first day of practice for Mercedes and the other W14 of George Russell back in 13th, behind a host of anticipated midfield runners.
Lando Norris was ninth for McLaren, who are looking to bounce back from another tricky pre-season, with the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon slotting between Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.
Russell was the final driver within a second of Alonso’s P1 time in 13th, followed by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari – unable to get the most out of his soft-tyre runs – F1 rookie Oscar Piastri and Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
Piastri had to take avoiding action in the opening stages of the session when he approached a slow-moving Stroll at the pit exit, with the significant lock-up he picked up leading to another off-track moment shortly afterwards.
Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda led the way for their respective Williams and AlphaTauri outfits, as team mates Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant – the other two rookies on the 2023 grid – brought up the rear.