His Formula 1 career so far has focused on trying to improve a struggling Williams, but George Russell made the most of his day in a Mercedes to go fastest on Wednesday in Bahrain.
Taking over from Bahrain Grand Prix race-winner Lewis Hamilton for the second of two days of testing, Russell posted a 1m 29.029s to pip Sergio Perez in the final ten minutes of track running. A final attempt to improve fell just 0.005s short as Russell completed more than 100 laps, ending 0.066s ahead of Perez.
The Mexican’s Racing Point team spent the two days trying to extract more performance from a significant upgrade package introduced in Australia, with Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer stating that they had only unlocked half of the potential of the new parts by the end of the race in Bahrain. Using race drivers on both days, Racing Point split Wednesday’s running between Lance Stroll and Perez, and it was the Mexican who was second fastest overall with a 1m 29.095s, as both of the top two used the softest available tyre from Pirelli.
Third was Sebastian Vettel as he sought improvements to the Ferrari’s handling after struggling in Sunday’s race, and a 1m 29.319s was particularly impressive given that it came on the C3 compound in the middle of the tyre range. Vettel also completed 103 laps, but was 40 shy of the highest total set by Alexander Albon in the Toro Rosso.
Albon was seventh overall on the C4 tyre, with team mate Daniil Kvyat carrying out tyre testing duties for Pirelli and clocking the fifth fastest time – albeit as part of an unknown programme – just behind Carlos Sainz.
It was a busy day for Sainz, who was also testing for Pirelli in the morning session before handing over to Fernando Alonso in the afternoon. Sainz then took over the McLaren that the team was using for its own testing from Lando Norris, and duly set the fourth quickest time on the C3 compound as part of 21 late laps, registering a 1m 29.795s.
Kvyat posted a 1m 29.911s to end up slightly quicker than Mick Schumacher as the 20-year-old switched from Ferrari to Alfa Romeo on Wednesday. Schumacher’s running was somewhat limited, with just 70 laps to his name, though he was within a second of Russell’s best time, also on the softest compound.
Albon in seventh and Lance Stroll in eighth were also just a second off Russell on a competitive day, which was far more productive for the teams after Tuesday’s unexpected rain. Warm and dry conditions persisted, and a fair bit of cloud cover prevented track temperatures from getting too high.
There was a Formula 1 debut for Dan Ticktum, who carried out testing duties for Red Bull, and managed to gain 135 laps’ worth of experience. Ticktum’s best lap of 1m 30.856s left him just 0.046s clear of Romain Grosjean in the Haas as both drivers used the C4 tyre, with Fernando Alonso 0.1s adrift as the former McLaren racer completed more Pirelli running.
There was more track time for Pietro Fittipaldi during the morning session at Haas, while rookies Jack Aitken and Nicholas Latifi got their first taste of 2019 machinery for Renault and Williams respectively, both completing over 100 laps after completing a number of aero tests.