It was really hard to read too much into the first free practice session for the 2023 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, as cars were all over the place in terms of times. Nobody used the hard tyre in this sessions, wanting to keep them for the race, so the second free practice session in the afternoon was even more eagerly awaited for possible furher indications about where teams stand at this stage of the season.
In the same conditions drivers will be qualifying and racing in later this weekend, teams were sure to want to run these new cars to the max, which gave us a much clearer picture of the pecking order in this start of the 2023 F1 campaign. The second half of the session, meanwhile, played host to the longer runs which will be key for Sunday’s race.
Green light and we were back under way for our second session of the day: it was Lance Stroll who led us out. Practice Two always produces more representative times than Practice One so this was going to get interesting. Soft tyres on straight away for Mercedes and Ferrari, having stuck to the mediums throughout the opening practice session.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have came out of the gate flying and jumped ahead of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon to the top of the timesheet: the Monegasque set a a 1.31.843, with his Maranello teammate 0.113s behind. Lewis Hamilton was 0.573s off Charles Leclerc and George Russell was a further tenth off. They were split by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, though, so perhaps not the most representative first runs. Ferrari are expected to be quicker over one lap than in race pace this weekend.
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However, after setting the fastest time so far, Charles Leclerc looked to be suffering with an issue as he slowly worked his way down the pitlane: “Guys there is something strange with the clutch so let’s look at it,” Charles Leclerc told the Ferrari team as he heads back.
There was a great little battle down the main straight between youngsters Oscar Piastri and Yuki Tsunosda: they had a drag race, side-by-side past the pitlane and caught the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll – Piastri had the dive down the inside, locking up. If it was the race, that would have been a fantastic double overtake – but this was only practice!
Max Verstappen was on the team radio with some complaints about how his car was feeling in this session: “I feel like the car is jumping around a lot more than testing,” Max Verstappen told the Red Bull team. He sat 10th and was 0.951s off the pace at this stage of FP2, just as Lewis Hamilton put in another good lap on those soft tyres and jumped up to third on the timesheet, sitting 0.429s behind Charles Leclerc at the top. The Monegasque made his return to the track after a clutch issue forced him back to the pits.
We knew the Aston Martin was competitive and we got confirmation in this FP2 as Lance Stroll just put in a brilliant lap to go at the top of the timesheet with a 1:31.450. Not longer after, his teammate Fernando Alonso took the top spot and was two tenths quicker than Sergio Perez in second.
Chequered Flag and that was a sight Aston Martin wanted to see! The rumours that the Aston Martin is competitive looks to be bearing fruit as Fernando Alonso’s 1:30.907 goes unbeaten. Max Verstappen finished second, 0.169s off the pace, with Sergio Perez in third and just one more tenth behind. Mercedes can do no better than eighth and 13th, with the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc in fourth and Carlos Sainz in 14th.
Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 1:30.907
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.169
Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.171
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.460
Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +0.469
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +0.543
Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +0.568
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.636
Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.663
Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) +0.679
Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.701
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +0.886
George Russell (Mercedes) +0.975
Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1.049
Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1.117
Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.203
Alex Albon (Williams) +1.533
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.618
Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri) +1.698
Logan Sargeant (Williams) +1.842