Mercedes driver George Russell stepped out of his car after being stopped on track during the second day of F1 testing in Bahrain on Friday. (Getty Images)
Sakhir, Bahrain — Max Verstappen is quick in F1 testing as Mercedes and McLaren struggle.
The defending champion wasn’t Red Bull’s fastest Friday on the second day of pre-season testing — it was Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu — but the Dutchman was just 0.04 seconds behind and finished the race. It seemed consistent on long runs simulating distance.
Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Aston Martin, Carlos Sainz Jr. sixth and Charles Leclerc eighth for Ferrari.
Verstappen took over from team-mate Sergio Pérez in Friday’s afternoon session to add another 47 laps to the 157 he completed setting the pace on Thursday. These were the Dutch driver’s last test laps until next week and practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same venue. Perez will be in the car for Saturday’s run.
Mercedes struggled to find the right set-up, with Russell finishing 13th and Hamilton 15th among 17 drivers.
Earlier in the day, Russell wondered if the team would be able to contend for victory at next week’s season opener. did
“I’m confident that eventually we will have a car that can be in that battle,” said Russell. “Whether it’s in Bahrain next weekend might be a bit of a stretch.”
The times set in the tests only provide a rough guide to the actual speeds of the teams in the season, and the cars are often set very differently, sometimes using heavy fuel to mimic full race distances. It’s loaded. Title contenders may try to hide their actual pace from their rivals, while smaller teams may advertise for faster times per lap.
McLaren could still face a difficult start to the season for Lando Norris and rookie teammate Oscar Piastri.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown said: “We do a lot of development like everyone else, so we’re encouraged by what we’re seeing around the corner. “It’s hard to really know where it’s going to put us all on the grid.”
American driver Logan Sargent had a solid day ahead of his Williams debut next week with 154 laps and the seventh fastest time.
With Lance Stroll sidelined with a wrist injury from a bicycle accident, Aston Martin will once again field Formula 2 champion Felipe Dolgovic for the third day of testing on Saturday. The team has not revealed a timeline for Stroll’s return before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
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