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Zhou heads second day of F1 pre-season testing; mercedes has problems Sport-rated




Zhou Guanyu posted a late lap time on soft tires to set the pace for Alfa Romeo on the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, but there were concerns for Mercedes when George Russell stopped on track.

Teams have shown remarkable levels of reliability so far in testing due to limited rule changes compared to last year, but Russell caused only the second unintentional red flag interruption of the week when he stopped with more than 90 minute afternoon session. . A hydraulic failure was the cause and meant Russell didn’t start again on day two, leaving him with just 26 laps to his name.

It was a much busier driver who topped the times as Zhou completed 132 laps and put Alfa Romeo fastest overall using the softer C5 compound at the end of the day. Zhou’s time of 1m31.610s barely put him ahead of Thursday’s leader Max Verstappen, with Red Bull enjoying another day of cheering and finishing 0.04s off the lead once again.

Verstappen drove in the second session to complete his test run, with Sergio Pérez performing all duties on the final day. Pérez had already achieved a race simulation in the morning as part of the 76 laps completed and more impressive long-haul mileage as Red Bull seemed to be the clear reference point at this stage.

After finishing second on Thursday, Fernando Alonso remained competitive with the third fastest time on Friday and racked up 130 laps while taking the wheel all day for Aston Martin. Like Verstappen, Alonso used the C3 tire for his fastest time and was within half a second of Red Bull, with Aston enjoying an encouraging test so far.

Softer C4 tires were fitted to Nyck de Vries’ car as he finished fourth for AlphaTauri, enjoying a productive afternoon with 74 laps to his name. That left him just 0.017sec behind Alonso, after a brief stint in the second session when it was a Dutch one-two.

After losing some track time with a throttle problem on opening day, Haas enjoyed a trouble-free race and was fifth fastest behind Nico Hulkenberg, also in the C4. The earlier problem was on Ferrari’s side and was rectified by the power unit manufacturer overnight, allowing Kevin Magnussen to complete some great mileage in the morning and Haas a total of 135 laps.

Carlos Sainz was sixth for Ferrari, 0.3s quicker than teammate Charles Leclerc on the same C3 tire compound, as there was more solid progress for the Scuderia but no real indication of pace despite unknown fuel loads, with Leclerc’s best lap in a similar time. Verstappen and more than a second slower.

The Ferrari pairing was split by Logan Sargeant on an impressive day for the American rookie. Sargeant completed the most mileage with 154 laps and was within a second of the fastest time, although he too used the C5 tyre.

As well as concerns about Mercedes’ reliability, there was a focus on McLaren’s apparent lack of pace on the day Zak Brown admitted the team had missed its development targets with its new car. McLaren is confident in its upgrade plan, but Oscar Piastri’s ninth fastest time was part of lower fuel consumption, while Lando Norris was 16th of 17 drivers to set times, albeit notably in harder C2, and pessimistic on the initial potential.

By contrast, Alpine continued to progress smoothly through their test programme, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon 10th and 12th respectively, although both felt they could have completed more laps on day two.

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