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Sainz quickest as practice start almost ends in tears


Carlos Sainz set the pace on the second morning in Bahrain, while confusion following a practice start almost ends in mayhem.

As was the case yesterday, reliability doesn't appear to be an issue for the 2023 cars as yet, with the ten drivers completing 665 laps, compared to 601 yesterday.

While a few drivers lost a little track time due to various issues, there was nothing serious and no red flag stoppages.

Fernando Alonso, who, like Max Verstappen, is on duty for the entire day's running, was first out and Lewis Hamilton last.

As ever, the early running was all about aero rakes, though the decision to run old tyres for data acquisition purposes gave the incorrect impression that tyre wear was an issue.

The early running saw Magnussen and Perez set the pace, though after having some work done to the rear of his car Sainz leapfrogged the pair of them.

As Alonso went second, Aston Martin helpfully revealed its programme for the two remaining days. This consists of validation of aerodynamic performance and general setup work and optimisation. Long tyre runs, and completing sufficient mileage with all tyre compounds to further understanding of compounds ahead of the season. Race and qualifying simulations to predominantly focus on C1, C2 and C3 compounds, which are to be used at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

At AlphaTauri, Yuki Tsunoda was putting in the laps but clearly not looking for pace, the Japanese propping up the timesheets all morning.

As Zhou and Hamilton tried the prototype tyres, it was noticeable that the Briton was struggling with the rear of the Mercedes, as he had with other compounds.

Indeed, Hamilton was one of a number of drivers to incur damage after running over the kerbs.

As attention switched to long runs, Sargeant brought his to an early end after suffering an undisclosed issue with his front left, thought to be a wheel hub or brake problem.

Back on track the American subsequently went second quickest, while Hamilton continued to struggle, his car snapping out, particularly in the final corner, though Turn 10 has also been causing problems for a number of drivers.

The good news for McLaren is that the MCL60 looked a lot more settled than yesterday, though like Tsunoda, Norris wasn't focussing on times.

Talking to Sky Sports, Toto Wolff admitted that Red Bull and Ferrari "are fast for sure", though he was keen to add that "we're still hiding a little bit".

"The car is out of balance this morning, he admitted, "you can see that from the black marks we are leaving with acceleration.

"It is quite hot and we just haven't found the right set up. It's not the driver that is over-driving, the car is not giving enough grip on the rear."

Asked about the mood within the team, he said: "A feeling of excitement. We got it wrong last year when we finished third. I can't wait for the season to start.

"Mentally it is always difficult to start with a car that is not on par as we did last year, which explains the excitement but we need to stay humble. And yes the porpoising is gone essentially."

With around 15 minutes remaining, Sargeant went quickest in the second sector, but his improved time of 32.549 still left him 0.063s off Sainz' pace.

As was the case yesterday morning and afternoon, the FIA performed a VSC systems check however, today it was followed by a red flag practice start procedure.

Magnussen claimed pole as the drivers lined up on the grid, but as part of the process the start was aborted and the cars forced to drive another formation lap.

Confusion at the second start saw Magnussen head off into the distance, while Norris failed to get away, almost collecting Sainz in the process. Starting from the back, Hamilton passed Ocon, who seemed as confused as Norris, and he too almost collected the Ferrari.

With the first race just a week away, one can imagine that a lot of people were breathing huge sighs of relief when the session finally came to an end.

While nine of the teams now change drivers for the afternoon shift, as was the case yesterday we expect to see the changing climatic, as the sun sets and the circuit's floodlights take over, lead to some fast lap times.

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.


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1. Posted by alvarezh3, 24/02/2023 23:27

"Toto said :"the car is not giving enough grip on the rear."........but he's happy it's not bouncing.......great consolation Wolf!

By the way, there is a British team with a green car approaching fast, eager for at least a third place in the constructors championship. Watch your mirrors! :-)"

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