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Ocon sets Friday morning pace

NEWS STORY
11/03/2022

Esteban Ocon set the pace in the Pink Panther Alpine this morning, as McLaren's woes continue.

Though it remains far too early to be making any kind of significant prediction in terms of the pecking order - other than for the fact that the Ferrari looks strong - as we reach the halfway point of the second pre-season test it is clear that a couple of teams have problems.

Having encountered brake issues yesterday, which Lando Norris admitted would not be a quick fix, the Woking outfit continued to suffer this morning.

Already having to change plans after Daniel Ricciardo reported sick again, the Woking team managed just 29 laps over the course of the four hour session.

In a further blow to the team new parts that are required will not arrive until tomorrow (Saturday), and without them the team cannot complete a race distance.

Alfa Romeo also lost track time, with Valtteri Bottas completing just 25 laps, as did Haas and Williams.

The Grove outfit, which had Nicholas Latifi on duty, was responsible for one of the morning's two red flag stoppages, when the Canadian spun off track after suffering a brake fire.

"From initial investigations, it appears that the issue that caused the fire was quite minor," said the Grove outfit, "but became visibly quite dramatic.

"It is not as severe as the video footage might suggest," the team insisted, "but there is fire damage to the rear of the car that the team need to repair. We’ll revise our running plan once we have assessed the repair work that needs to be carried out."

Ironically, at the very time Latifi had flames flaring from the rear of his car, teammate Alex Albon was talking to the media, assuring that "all was well".

"Unfortunately, our running in this session has ended early,” reported Haas shortly after, Mick Schumacher having completed just 12 laps. "An issue with the exhaust needs to be investigated by the crew."

While the second red flag of the morning was merely Race Control performing a system check, this was to lead to the second official stoppage.

The system check completed, Race Control ordered a practice start, however, while Vettel, Bottas and Leclerc were able to take their place on the 'grid', Verstappen and Russell were still in the pitlane.

As a result Race Control ordered another formation lap to allow the Red Bull and Mercedes to take their places on the grid. Unfortunately, shortly after Bottas ground to a halt and the session was abandoned.

Though well down the timesheets, Russell completed a race sim during the course of his 67 laps and therefore his best time should have that factor very much borne in mind.

Pace-setter Ocon completed 59 laps, while Leclerc, who was just 0.090s off the pace, completed 54.

With no further excitement in terms of updates from Mercedes, a number of other teams have introduced new bits, most notably Ferrari which is sporting a McLaren-style floor.

Worth noting that Turn 10 is continuing to cause problems for the drivers, with most locking up or running wide at some point or another.

All in all an interesting morning as the teams ramp up the pressure and thereby increase the chances of a reliability issue.

Along with Hamilton, Zhou and Stroll another driver in action this afternoon is Kevin Magnussen, assuming Haas have resolved that exhaust issue.

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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