Alonso quicker than Verstappen and Perez in Bahrain FP2

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Aston Martin continued to shine in second free practice in Bahrain on Friday, with Fernando Alonso topping the times ahead of Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in a problem-free session.

Alonso's best lap of 1:30.907s was 0.169s quicker than the reigning world champion, who complained about the RB19 "jumping around" more than it had done in last week's pre-season test. Perez was a mere two thousandths of a second further back.

Charles Leclerc flew Ferrari's colours in fourth with strong laps in evidence form Haas' Nico Hulkenberg (fifth), Aston returnee Lance Stroll (sixth) and Alpine's Pierre Gasly (seventh).

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 leaves the pits. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

The evening conditions in Sakhir meant that it was significantly cooler as the cars headed out on track under the floodlights at Bahrain International Circuit for the second free practice session of the 2023 season.

Happy to be back in action after being sidelined from last week's pre-season testing at the venue, Lance Stroll was first out for Aston Martin on the medium tyres, keen also to make up lost time for an ignition issue in FP1.

Everyone was soon following Stroll out on a mixture of medium and soft compounds, and the early honours went to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz with a time of 1:31.956s. That was already much faster than anyone had managed in the searing heat of the earlier daytime session.

Alpine's Pierre Gasly was quickly into second followed by team mate Esteban Ocon, before Charles Leclerc then sprang to the top of the timings by a good tenth to the better of Sainz despite complaining about "something strange with the clutch, so let's look at it".

Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams Racing FW45. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

Meanwhile Max Verstappen's opening lap had clocked in a cautious eighth, half a second behind Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez. "I feel like the car is jumping around more than in testing," he commented over the radio to the team pit wall.

Elsewhere there was a minor spat between McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda as they closed up on the back of a slow-moving Aston Martin. Piastri subsequently locked up and ran wide at turn 1 and flat-spotted his tyres in the process, not for the first time.

After the first 15 minutes, Leclerc's time of 1:31.843s was 0.113s ahead of Sainz with Lewis Hamilton in third followed by Gasly, Ocon, Perez and George Russell, with Fernando Alonso in eighth. Of that group only Perez and Alonso were on the mediums, with Logan Sargeant ninth on the soft compound ahead of Verstappen now down in tenth on the yellow-walled tyres.

After a brief lull, Sargeant led the cars back out on track for a second stint. The Williams newcomer had bolted on a second set of softs but was unable to improve on his existing time, and he soon slipped behind team mate Alex Albon who had gone quicker by half a second putting him up into sixth.

Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-23. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

Kevin Magnussen brought a cheer to the Haas garage as he briefly moved into third place, and Stroll then went quickest of anyone by almost four tenths of a second from Leclerc showing that the twilight conditions were growing increasingly optimised.

A flurry of fliers then saw Perez go top with a time of 1:31.078s which was immediately beaten by Alonso going 0.171s quicker. That pushed Leclerc down to third with Nico Hulkenberg now fourth ahead of Stroll and Hamilton.

Lando Norris was in seventh, having narrowly avoided a collision on pit lane with Nyck de Vries after AlphaTauri released him into the McLaren's path in a seemingly unsafe fashion noted by the stewards. Behind Norris was Alfa Romeo sophomore Zhou Guanyu.

Then it was Verstappen's turn to take a run, but he wasn't quite fast enough to topple Alonso from the top spot and had to settle for second, two thousandths of a second ahead of Perez. Those who had been hyping Aston Martin's prospects in the run-up to the weekend look to have plenty to crow about right now.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

Everyone had completed at least one fast lap on soft tyres before the midway point of the hour-long session, and after that it was time for drivers to turn their attention to the less eye-catching but nonetheless crucial long distance runs to test the degradation on the medium tyres.

A problem-free finish meant that Alonso duly took the honours at the end of the session, followed by the two Red Bull drivers and Leclerc in fourth and Haas also looking strong with Hulkenberg in fifth from Stroll, Gasly, Hamilton, Norris and Zhou.

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