Red Bull and Ferrari closed Friday practice at the Bahrain International Circuit as the two teams that look most likely to fight it out for pole position on Saturday.
Max Verstappen set the fastest lap of the day on the softest tyre compound, while Charles Leclerc was less than a tenth of a second behind with his best effort.
Both drivers cut confident figures as they chatted with the media post-session – but who should be smug and who should feel disappointed after the first day of F1’s new era?
Here are RacingNews365.com‘s winners and losers on the Friday of the 2022 Bahrain GP weekend:
As a package, Ferrari’s new F1-75 looks a comfortable car to drive and one that is as quick as any other on the 2022 grid.
Leclerc appears to have a better handle of the car in comparison to his teammate over a single lap, with Carlos Sainz, by his own admission, struggling. The two drivers look more evenly matched during race runs, however.
Anything short of the front row will be disappointing for either driver tomorrow, given their clear pace so far this weekend.
Loser: Mercedes and Hamilton
While George Russell managed to put in a time at the right end of the timing sheet, Mercedes struggled overall on Friday in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton’s car was dealt the worst of their problems, suffering from porpoising, a DRS failure and brake issues during FP2.
You would be naive to rule them out just yet, however. Mercedes-powered cars made up the six slowest through the speed traps on Friday, leading some to believe that the team still have a trick up their sleeve.
While his teammate, Sergio Perez, ran through a different programme (according to Red Bull), and placed down in seventh, Verstappen has shown that he has the pace to be in the fight for pole position on Saturday.
The World Champion enjoyed a problem-free Friday in Bahrain with his car fast in both hot and cooling conditions – and on all tyre compounds.
After a winter of much uncertainty, he will now be feeling confident that Red Bull have built him a car capable of making him a multiple World Champion.
Williams will have entered F1’s new era filled with optimism but find themselves struggling for pace in Bahrain.
Nicholas Latifi and Alex Albon placed 19th and 20th in FP2 and will now be fearing a season spent fighting each other at the very back of the grid.
One big bonus for the team is that they did manage to complete their entire Friday programme, with plenty of data gathered – but their car looked much better back in Barcelona.
Perhaps benefitting from a poor day for McLaren and AlphaTauri, Alpine look to be leading the midfield race after FP2.
Fernando Alonso placed above both Perez and Hamilton in terms of one-lap pace and, through the speed traps, the Renault engine clearly has some straight-line grunt.
Alonso and teammate Esteban Ocon will both be looking to get into Q3 on Saturday and put some big points on the board early in the season.
Loser: McLaren and AlphaTauri
While Alpine thrived under the Bahrain sunset, McLaren and AlphaTauri were both left lagging behind in FP2.
AlphaTauri topped the times with Pierre Gasly in FP1, but fell to 13th during the evening with his AT03 losing all balance as the track cooled.
McLaren, meanwhile, say they are in search of more pace as they look to catch the teams around them, following well-documented brake issues.
Winner: Haas and Alfa Romeo
Kevin Magnussen could not stop himself from smiling as he addressed the media following FP2, providing a positive report on how his Haas car coped in Bahrain.
The team, which spent the entire 2021 season working on their 2022 car, have seemingly made a big step forward this season and were the fifth fastest car on Friday.
Alfa Romeo just pipped them, though, with Valtteri Bottas putting the Italian team right in the fight for a place in Q3 with a lap faster than Hamilton’s best.