Max Verstappen Tops Bahrain Grand Prix Practice as Red Bull Deliver on Speed

Max Verstappen topped the instances for Red Bull forward of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in Friday’s opening free follow session forward of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. On a lovely blue-skied day again on the monitor the place Red Bull had dominated pre-season testing, the Dutchman continued the place he had left off with an imperious late lap of 1:31.394 to complete prime of the pile. He was half a second away from Mercedes’ defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who was fourth behind fellow Briton Lando Norris of McLaren however one place forward of Charles Leclerc in a revitalised Ferrari.

Sergio Perez was sixth in his first run after shifting to Red Bull forward of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Ferrari new boy Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo who was ninth on his first outing with McLaren.

Antonio Giovinazzi was tenth for Alfa Romeo forward of his 41-year-old teammate Kimi Raikkonen and the Aston Martins — previously Racing Points — of newly-arrived four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.

On his first exhibiting since popping out of retirement to re-join the Alpine-branded Renault staff, two-time champion Fernando Alonso was sixteenth, one place behind his team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, was nineteenth on his debut, one place forward of Haas team-mate and fellow-rookie Nikita Mazepin whereas Japanese new boy Yuki Tsunoda was 14th for Alpha Tauri.

The session started with Hamilton, aiming for an eighth world title, and Verstappen buying and selling quickest lap instances within the opening quarter-hour earlier than Norris and Leclerc took over after switching to softs.

In a cost-cutting transfer, the opening session was reduce from 90 minutes to only one hour, including a contact extra stress on the drivers, who’ve solely had three days’ pre-season testing, to ship some strong performances.

Mercedes, bidding to increase their run of seven consecutive constructors’ and drivers’ championship doubles, struggled to impress in testing however gave the impression to be in a lot better form within the early minutes as they matched Red Bull.

McLaren, with a revised diffuser that suited the modified rear finish guidelines launched to gradual the vehicles this yr, seemed well-balanced and quick.

Norris and Ricciardo had been each fast, the Briton topping the instances halfway by the hour earlier than being reeled in by Bottas after which, within the remaining minutes, Verstappen.

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