Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in for this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix George Russell has executed a clean sweep of practice sessions by topping both FP1 and FP2.
The high-speed nature of the Bahrain outer configuration has seen Formula 1’s previous fastest grand prix lap time set by Niki Lauda at Dijon in 1974, obliterated.
Times were in the 56sec vicinity for the first half of the the day, and by the end of the session that benchmark was lowered by two seconds.
Russell was having a ball on what was his first time behind the wheel of the championship-winning Mercedes W11.
The Brit edged home Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in FP1 at the chequered flag as almost the entire field donned the soft compound for the final half of the session.
Alex Albon put in a stonking few laps and threatened to finish at the head of the timesheets. But ultimately the Thai driver settled for third best.
Mercedes’ regular Valtteri Bottas would have expected to be the team’s leader this weekend given his experience with the car.
Yet the Finnish driver could only muster the fourth-best lap time at the end of the opening session, with things further slipping away from him in FP2.
There, Bottas finished only 11th while Russell comprehensively sealed a perfect end to the day.
The silver lining for Bottas is that two of his laps set on the soft tyres were good enough to leave him quickest, but circuit infringements had both times deleted.
That left Red Bull once again as Russell’s closest rivals with Verstappen leading home Albon for the second successive session.
Both complained of severe understeer, and neither driver look entirely satisfied with the way each car was handling. However, Red Bull looked to have a small advantage over Mercedes on long-stint performance while could set up for an intriguing battle during the race.
Sergio Perez starred once again and slipped in between the two Red Bull drivers, as did Esteban Ocon with Renault concluding a healthy day of running.
Ocon and Ricciardo ended both sessions inside the top-ten, and the Renault R.S.20 seemed stable on both long runs and qualifying simulations.
Ferrari suffered mixed fortunes across the day with the long straights putting their under-powered engines to the ultimate test.
Both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were top-ten runners in FP1. Still, the former would sit out almost all of the second session due to a halfshaft drama.
Vettel then concluded the day only 16th fastest and only barely avoided a significant crash when he spun in front of Kevin Magnussen.
There are two rookies in the field for this weekend’s grand prix.
Pietro Fittipaldi is subbing in for the injured Romain Grosjean, and he finished both sessions second slowest of all the timed runners.
Jack Aitken, meanwhile, is filling the vacant seat left behind by Russell at Williams and he spent most of the day getting up to speed with the new car. He finished both session slowest of all the timed cars.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.