George Russell was fastest in the second practice session for the Shakir Grand Prix after going a tenth faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Russell who is making his debut for Mercedes appeared to be comfortable as he continues to adapt to the car.
However his teammate Valtteri Bottas could only manage eleventh after having his time deleted for exceeding track limits. Bottas’s average laps did appear to be faster on race pace. Verstappen appeared closer than it may have been expected.
Bottas appears to have a little more pace in hand, especially through the bumpy middle sector of the new, shorter layout of Bahrain’s F1 track that is being used for the first time this weekend. Russell struggled a bit on his race runs suffering higher wear than Bottas.
Russell told Sky Sports, “Just because I’m quickest today, doesn’t mean I’ll be quickest tomorrow.”
Verstappen also appeared more comfortable than Russell, he was just over two hundredths faster than the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. The Mexican going almost a tenth faster than his former teammate Esteban Ocon. Ocon went third on his first run, before Verstappen went fastest on the medium tyres.
Perez’s time was set on the soft tyres and went fastest despite not going fastest in any of the three sectors. Alex Albon was fifth fastest, but the Red Bull driver looked as fast the Mercedes on the race runs. Daniil Kvyat was fifth fastest going just over two hundredths faster than the Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
This again appears to be a close midfield fight, with the fastest Racing Point, Renault and Alpha Tauri being a second and two tenths apart. Daniel Ricciardo was eighth two tenth behind Stroll and ahead of Pierre Gasly by almost a tenth.
Valtteri Bottas was eleventh fastest six tenths behind Russell, however, his fastest time was set on the hard tyre. That’s makes it difficult to compare with Russell. Kimi Raikkonen was twelfth fastest almost four hundredths faster than his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Bottas told BBC News “Practice two felt OK, I didn’t get any laps on the soft tyre, had one half-decent lap but it got deleted for track limits. The long runs were pretty consistent but Red Bull on the medium tyre looked pretty quick.”
The Alfa Romeo’s were fastest of the Ferrari powered cars, the Outer Circuit was expected to be a challenge for Ferrari who has struggled for straight-line speed all season. Raikkonen was only however seven-tenths behind Russell’s fastest time.
It was a tough session for the works Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was sixteenth fastest after suffering two spins during his qualifying simulation. The four-times champion lost the rear of his car through Turn Two, following oversteer which tipped him into the gravel.
Vettel’s second spin was through the new second, he ran wide through Turn Five after dipping into the gravel sending him into a spin. That caused Haas’s driver Kevin Magnussen to slam on the brakes, and avoid a collision with Vettel.
Charles Leclerc didn’t manage to set a time, he lost drive through Turn Eight after going fastest in the first sector, he then coasted back to the pit lane. Ferrari had hoped to get the Monacan back out on track, but failed.
Pietro Fittipaldi was eighteenth ahead of Russell’s replacement at Williams Jack Aitken.