Lewis Hamilton was fastest in second practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix once again going three tenths faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The seven-times champion set his fastest time in the closing moments of the session having left his qualifying simulation until the end.
Hamilton completed the run following a red flag, pushing the Dutchman down to second when most of the rest of the drivers had already switched to doing their long runs. The Mercedes driver hadn’t run a flying lap early on but was three tenths faster on the soft tyre.
Valtteri Bottas was third fastest, he was just under two hundredths behind the Red Bull. As many drivers struggled in the cooler conditions to keep the heat in their tyres, and that wasn’t holding up allowing times to be set. Sergio Perez was fourth fastest for Racing Point going seven hundredths faster than Daniel Ricciardo.
Alex Albon suffered a big impact with the barrier midway through the session leaving him down in tenth place. The Red Bull driver lost control through the final corner and spun into the wall, meaning he missed the remainder of the session.
Albon said, “Obviously I’ve had a few of them [big crashes] so I’m used to it but it was OK, it was just one of those things. I should have pulled out of it [the throttle] really, I was a bit surprised by the lack of grip lets say but it was just one of those things.”
Pierre Gasly was sixth, the Alpha Tauri driver going almost two tenths faster than McLaren’s Lando Norris. But the Frenchman was half a second off the pace. Lance Stroll was eighth fastest ahead of the second Alpha Tauri of Daniil Kvyat.
It is hard to understand the comparisons between the teams on race pace as the session was interrupted both by the red flags, as well as teams being given a defined run plan by Pirelli with two sets of 2021 tyres being run by all the drivers.
That meant the teams’ programmes diverged more than usual and put many out of sync with each other. However many of the drivers appeared unhappy with the tyres for next year.
As most of the field switched to a slightly diminished period of long-run data gathering, Mercedes have Hamilton another run, which he used to finally better Verstappen’s medium tyre lap. Hamilton’s fastest lap came with two purple sectors although he lost time in the final sector.
Esteban Ocon was eleventh fastest, the Renault driver was seven hundredths behind the Red Bull and outpaced the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel by two-hundredths of a second. As expected, has often been the case in 2020, Ferrari power appears to struggle at high speed and downforce circuits.
In the key battle between Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari for third in the constructors, it appears Racing Point and Renault who were six-hundredths of a second apart. While McLaren was a further three hundredths behind.
The four-times champion was just over a tenth slower than Ocon, but was faster than Carlos Sainz who replaces him next year, with Charles Leclerc fourteenth. Ferrari was expected to struggle at the high-speed Sakhir circuit over the next two weeks given the long straights and fast corners.
Antonio Giovinazzi was fifteenth going two tenths faster than Kevin Magnussen with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen seventeenth. Nicolas Latifi was eighteenth ahead of Romain Grosjean and Nicolas Latifi.
Mercedes were always going to be the team to beat in Bahrain, it’s a circuit which suits the car but I don’t think we got the full picture. We had teams doing run plans set by Pirelli at different times in the session and a red flag.
It’s going to be very difficult for Red Bull to stay with Mercedes when they turn the cars up in qualifying. Normally in this dominant season by Mercedes, they and mainly Lewis Hamilton have won the race on Sunday. It’s not a surprise to see Ferrari struggle in Bahrain as it’s a power circuit.
Alex Albon says he ran wide because of a lack of grip causing the snap which led to his crash.
Not what he needed when his future remains uncertain, Red Bull has openly stated it would look to an experienced driver, such as Sergio Perez, for next year were it to replace Albon, but is happy to give the youngster time to stake his claim to the seat.