Daniel Ricciardo clocked in fastest on Saturday morning on the second day of testing in Bahrain, the McLaren driver sparing with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso for the top spot in the session.
Ricciardo led the Spaniard by 0.124s while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez lined up third in a session marked by more woes for Mercedes caused by a rare mistake by Lewis Hamilton that sent the Briton into the gravel trap and brought out the red flag.
Bahrain Pre-Season Test – Day 2 – Morning
Drivers ventured out amid improved conditions on Saturday, with less wind and sand swirling around Sakhir.
Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and Nicholas Latifi took to the track for the first time while Lewis Hamilton kicked off the day in the Mercedes camp, hoping to recover part of the massive time lost on Friday following the troubles that undermined the German outfit’s opening session.
Installation laps, aero rakes and data collection were the norm at the outset of Day 2, with Hamilton achieving in the first 15 minutes of the session more laps than Valtteri Bottas managed in yesterday’s entire morning segment.
Haas’ Nikita Mazepin established an early benchmark that was overhauled in short order by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Alonso and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton meantime just went about his business, peeling off the laps onboard the W12 Black Arrow but running among the top six.
As everyone settled in Alonso, lapping relentlessly, clocked in fastest with a 1m32.769s. The Alpine charger was briefly overhauled by Ricciardo but recouped the top spot, lowering the benchmark to 1m32.339s.
But the McLaren driver later hit back with a 32.215 that put him back in charge and 0.124s ahead of Alonso and 0.857 clear of Sainz
Meanwhile, Vettel – with only six laps on the board – was stranded in the Aston Martin garage as the team assessed a gearbox issue, a Mercedes ‘box’ to be specific.
As the clock ticked past the two-hour mark, an unfamiliar sight popped up on the screens: Hamilton beached in the gravel trap!
A replay showed the Briton losing it on the exit of Turn 13 and sliding backwards into the gravel. A rare mistake for the seven-time world champion and another setback for Mercedes which is enduring its worst pre-season since the advent of the hybrid era in F1.
The mishap brought out the red flag to allow Mercedes’ crews to retrieve the stricken W12.
During the final hour of the session, positions tightened up at the top of the timesheet, with 0.326s separating Ricciardo, Alonso, Perez and Latifi, with the Williams driver doing a solid job despite a spin earlier in the morning.
Hamilton returned to the track with less than 30 minutes to go, but performance remained a secondary concern for Mercedes.
Meanwhile, the Briton’s former arch-rival Sebastian Vettel was gearing up for a quick run in the final minutes of the session.
The positions remained unchanged up ahead, with Ricciardo concluding his morning with the fastest time for the second day running, confirming the strong early performance of the McLaren-Mercedes package.
But the Aussie enjoyed only a small 0.124s edge over Alonso, while 0.469s separated the top five, with Perez, Latifi and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda all running under the 1m33s.
Haas’ Mazepin and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi put the most laps on the board, respectively with 76 and 73 rounds.
Can Lando Norris uphold McLaren’s lead this afternoon?
To find out, check back from 12pm UK (1pm CET) when the action resules at Bahrain International Circuit
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