RACE DEBRIEF

    A late effort from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Free Practice 2 of the Bahrain Grand Prix saw him claim a clean sweep of fastest times on the Friday, with the seven-time champion heading the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.347s in the evening session, with Valtteri Bottas just 0.018s further back, in an FP2 interrupted by a big smash for Verstappen’s team mate Alex Albon.

    Albon has been told by Red Bull that they want to be impressed by him in the final three races of 2020 in order for him to retain his Red Bull seat for 2021.

    But Christian Horner and Helmut Marko wouldn’t have been too impressed after Albon ran wide at Turn 15 halfway through the session and kept his foot in, with his RB16 sliding on the run-off before snapping to the left and ploughing into the wall.

    With the front and rear wing and right-side wheels ripped from the car, it heralded a long evening ahead for the Red Bull mechanics – and a long night of the soul for the under pressure Albon, who fortunately emerged seemingly unhurt from the incident.

    Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020

    Bahrain 2020

    Practice 2 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:28.971
    2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing +0.347s
    3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.365s
    4 Sergio Perez PER Racing Point +0.432s
    5 Daniel Ricciardo RIC Renault +0.491s

    After a red flag stoppage, followed by another one when a dog found its way onto the track, practice restarted with 27 of the 90 minutes remaining, and many drivers rushing to complete their interrupted qualifying simulations, in a session when all drivers were required to complete six timed laps on Pirelli's prototype tyres for next season.

    Hamilton’s first flying lap was only good enough for sixth after he encountered traffic, but a second effort with 15 minutes to go saw him put himself comfortably ahead of the Red Bull of Verstappen.

    WATCH: Bark-rain Grand Prix weekend interrupted as dog on track causes red flag in FP2

    However, it’s worth noting that Verstappen had been unable to improve on a 1m 29.318s effort he’d set on mediums early on in the session – with his best effort on soft tyres 0.082s slower than that, the difference between the two tyres seemingly marginal in terms of time, while many drivers complained of the softs losing life quickly.

    Bottas slotted into third, ending up ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, as Pierre Gasly took sixth for AlphaTauri. Rounding out the top 10, Lando Norris was seventh at the track where the McLaren driver took his first F1 points in 2019, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll eighth and AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat ninth – while Albon had done enough to take P10 before his shunt, with his and Kvyat’s best times, like Verstappen’s, also set on the medium.

    FP2 Highlights: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

    Renault’s Esteban Ocon was 11th, finishing narrowly ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz a medium-shod 13th – appropriate, given that the Spaniard has been infamously unlucky at this track, having never scored a point here.

    Charles Leclerc found himself outpaced by Ferrari team mate Vettel after a small error on his fastest lap, finishing 14th and ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Haas of the out-going Kevin Magnussen, who also set his best time on the mediums.

    READ MORE: Haas not waiting on F2 results before making driver line-up decision, says Steiner

    Kimi Raikkonen was back in his Alfa Romeo, having given it to Robert Kubica this morning, going 17th fastest on the mediums, ahead of the Williams of Nicholas Latifi, the medium-shod Romain Grosjean in an “undriveable” Haas (according to the Frenchman) and the second Williams of George Russell in P20 – the Briton having also missed FP1 to allow Roy Nissany another F1 practice run.

    So, after the most representative running of the weekend so far, it’s Mercedes out at the front. But with a tyre quandary for the teams to decode tonight, and Red Bull seemingly in the mix, qualifying will be well worth keeping an eye on.