Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the second practice session for this weekends Bahrain Grand Prix. The German outpaced his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc by three-hundredths of a second on the soft tyre. Mercedes Lewis Hamilton was third six tenths off Vettel.
Ferrari was the first team to send its drivers out on the soft tyres while Mercedes was six tenths off the outright pace after the team took the unusual step of doing two qualifying simulation runs. Vettel meanwhile extended their advantage over Mercedes.
It wasn’t perfect for Vettel as he suffered a spin as he began his race simulation run later in the session.
Going into the season opener, Mercedes believed that Ferrari was half a second ahead, but the team dominated the opening weekend of the season while Ferrari struggled. Ferrari has been quick from the off in Bahrain and at this early stage look the team to beat, although it is notoriously difficult to predict exact form from Friday practice.
Hamilton went ahead of Bottas that was despite him having two scruffy laps, before nailing his third lap but lost two tenths in sector one that by the end of the lap had extended to half a second. Max Verstappen only managed sixth behind Nico Hulkenberg.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff, told Sky Sports, “It’s a completely different Ferrari to what we saw in Melbourne. You can see the enormous straight-line power of the Ferrari, it is where they are making all the gains up.”
Hulkenberg put in a good run to put his Renault half a tenth faster than the Red Bull after the Dutchman struggled to get a lap together. Red Bull had been hoping that Honda could have stepped up this weekend to fight for wins but while they remain a threat they may struggle to fight.
Also, it was a difficult session for Pierre Gasly, the second Red Bull finding it difficult to get his tyres in the correct window and finished the session down in twelfth, seven tenths off the pace. It was, however, another decent session for both Haas and McLaren.
Kevin Magnussen put his car seventh ahead of Lando Norris, outpacing his more experienced teammate Carlos Sainz by six hundredths. But the Bristolian’s evening was brought to an early close, trundling back to the pits slowly reporting over the radio “I think it’s misfiring or something”.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat ended his evening tenth, one second and two tenths off Vettel. He went ahead of Sainz by a tenth of a second, while his teammate Alex Albon was thirteenth.
Racing Point also appeared to struggle, Sergio Perez only going fourteenth fastest, ahead of Ricciardo who was fifteenth and two seconds off the pace. It was a difficult evening for Alfa Romeo as both cars suffered limited running.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixteenth two seconds off after an odd spin on his out lap. The Finn exited the pit then at Turn Two he spun the car on the throttle, he did a run and set a time. He then disappeared into the garage, with the team working around the rear of the car.
His Alfa Romeo teammate also had a restricted session, although he did return to the track late on after completing just four in the early running. Lance Stroll split the two Alfa’s.
As has been the case since the start of testing Williams propped up the times, George Russell nineteenth while his teammate Robert Kubica was a further tenth behind.
Tomorrow’s qualifying could favour Ferrari as it will be very difficult for Mercedes to test tweaks which they make overnight. But expect the team to take the fight to Ferrari, but they cannot be counted out unless anything major shows up in Q1 in terms of race pace. Ferrari knows that Mercedes cannot be discounted in Q3, whatever happens.
But as ever the race will be one which could be a close battle between the two top teams, we will see how good these regulation changes are and whether they create better racing. We can’t really use FP3 as a sign of who will have the advantage in qualifying. This could be a really interesting session as we begin to understand the performance this season.