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Alonso quickest in final practice


Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 28 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

After yesterday's excitement this session should give a better idea of what to expect later, even if the conditions are unrepresentative.

Alonso is playing down his hopes and those of Aston Martin, Leclerc insists Ferrari is in the mix even if it can rule out pole, while Hamilton admits that Mercedes has much work to do.

Understandably, Max is saying very little.

The lights go green and Norris (softs) leads the way, McLaren another team with work to do.

There is no rush to join him and as a result the youngster has the track to himself as he posts a 34.633.

At which point Hulkenberg heads out, subsequently joined by Haas teammate Magnussen, both are on mediums.

As Russell, Hamilton and the Ferraris head out, Hulkenberg posts a 36.150 and Magnussen a 36.240 The Mercedes and Ferrari pairs are on softs.

Hulkenberg is warned of a tailwind in Turns 6, 7, 9 and 13, and headwind in Turn 11.

Russell posts a 34.102 but Hamilton responds with a 33.508, the seven-time champion running the new rear wing.

Leclerc splits the Mercedes pair with a 33.574, while Sainz aborts his lap after complaining of a cracked seat.

Cracked seat or not, the Spaniard subsequently goes quickest in the opening sector, maintaining the pace in S2. At the line he stops the clock at 33.523 to go second, 0.015s off Hamilton's pace.

Stroll, Zhou, Bottas and Ocon head out, and immediately on-board footage suggests that the Canadian is not experiencing the issue he suffered with his right hand yesterday.

Stroll goes fifth with a 34.168, 0.660s off the pace.

A 33.873 sees Bottas go fourth but he is instantly demoted by Ocon (33.812).

As de Vries posts a 35.011 to go 10th, Alonso head out, followed by Piastri and Tsunoda.

Alonso goes quickest in the first sector, the Spaniard already pushing it all the way. He maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 33.121 to go quickest by 0.387s. It was a scrappy lap, but the point was made.

At which point the Bulls head out... on hards.

On those hards, Verstappen posts a 33.704 to go fifth and Perez a 34.049 to go ninth.

Hamilton improves but remains second, 0.374s off the pace.

As Gasly goes 8th with a 33.928, Perez slips to tenth.

Asked yesterday what the Mexican needs to improve this year if he is to challenge his teammate, Christian Horner used just three words... "his lap time," he replied.

Contrary to anticipation, the softs appear to be good for a couple of laps.

That said, on the hards, Verstappen complains: "I have no grip". That's after 6 laps.

"Too much understeer," complains Gasly, "I need more front."

Other than the Ferraris, Russell and de Vries, everyone is on the same set of tyres they started the session on, with Hulkenberg having completed 15 laps on his mediums.

In the Red Bull garage, Adrian Newey oversees work on Verstappen's car.

Sainz told to "take it easy" when braking in Turn 11.

As the qualifying sims get underway, Zhou goes second with a 33.180 on fresh softs, though Stroll responds with a 32.919 to go top.

Sargeant improves to seventh with a 33.665.

"That was awful," complains Albon, massive understeer and front locking from Turn 1 to the final corner."

A 32.555 sees Hamilton reclaim the top spot, while Russell goes second with a 32.731.

Verstappen heads out on fresh softs, as does Alonso.

The Dutchman posts a PB in S1, as does the Spaniard. Piastri goes 4th overall with a 33.045.

Verstappen goes quickest in S2, while Alonso posts another PB. At the line Verstappen posts a 32.345, while Alonso crosses the line at 32.340, to go top by 0.005s.

What a guy!

Told he is still P1, Alonso replies: "Oh really? Great!"

Ocon goes seventh with a 33.116.

The Top 5, Alonso, Verstappen, Hamilton, Russell and Stroll are covered by 0.579s.

Perez and Sainz head out as Magnussen goes tenth (33.381).

Perez goes third with a 32.446, the Top 3 covered by 0.106s.

Leclerc heads out.

"Tear off is caught in the left-rear," reports Hamilton.

A PB is S1 for Sainz, likewise Leclerc, who is slightly quicker. The Monegasque has the edge in S2 also, and while Sainz crosses the line at 32.945 to go seventh, Leclerc goes fifth with a 32.624.

Gasly goes tenth with a 33.064.

The session ends. Alonso is quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Leclerc, Russell, Stroll, Sainz, Piastri and Gasly.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Zhou, Norris, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Bottas, Sargeant, Albon and de Vries.

Well, well, well, we know that conditions will be different for qualifying, but despite all the claims of sand-bagging it is clear that the Aston Martin has pace.

Qualifying is going to be a thriller.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Manama here.


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