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Carlos Sainz topping timesheets on morning session of Day 2

We were back for day two of pre-season testing from Bahrain as the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season gets ever closer. Max Verstappen and Red Bull made an impressive start on Thursday, as the reigning world champion topped the timesheet, but Scuderia Ferrari is confident in its own testing programme which did not target the lap time at this stage of testing.

A few teams decided to go with the same driver for both sessions today, unlike the Maranello team: Carlos Sainz took part in the morning session, while Charles Leclerc will take over in the second part of the day.

From 7am through to 11:15am the first session took place at the Bahrain International Circuit: a very eager Fernando Alonso led a cue of cars out the pit lane as the light went green. After a few moments we had a first lap time of the day: Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz went to the top of the timesheet with a 1:38.225. Lewis Hamilton looked a little unsteady early on as he ran wide at Turn 10. He set a lap time to go second behind the Spaniard, but the times we were seeing at the moment were more than four seconds slower than the benchmark Max Verstappen set yesterday.

Following the first 30 minutes of the morning session, we had our first real injection of speed as Kevin Magnussen, who finished bottom of yesterday’s timesheet, put in a 1:33.710 for Haas: that meant he was more than 3.5s clear of Carlos Sainz in second. Max Verstappen hardly faced any interruptions on day one as he made serene progress for Red Bull. However, his team-mate Sergio Perez appeared to be facing an early holdup: the newly introduced rule preventing teams from putting screens in front of their garages meant we could see some work being done to what appeared to be the floor of the RB19.

It was nothing like the time he set yesterday, but Fernando Alonso put himself on the board with a 1:35.943. That was briefly good enough for second, but Carlos Sainz immediately improved to knock him down to third. Sergio Perez then went second with a 1:33.751, which was a little less than half a tenth back from Magnussen. Meanwhile, there was work being done in both the Mercedes and Ferrari garages, with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz waiting patiently. After a stuttering opening day, it wasn’t the most encouraging start for McLaren this morning: Lando Norris did the least laps of all the drivers in the session after one hour, while his best lap, a 1:36.019, was good enough for sixth.

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Soon after, we have a new fastest lap of the week! Carlos Sainz delivered a 1:32.653, taking almost two tenths off of Max Verstappen’s leading effort from yesterday. Also, if you want to directly compare that with the fastest time from yesterday’s early session, it’s a further tenth better from Max Verstappen’s morning mark.

Fernando Alonso then produced his best lap of the day, a 1:33.278, which left him six tenths behind Sainz in second. We also finally had a full complement of drivers on the board, with Logan Sargeant having gone seventh after finally putting a time down. But soon the Ferrari man went even faster: the Spaniard delivered a 1:32.486, taking the best part of two tenths out of his previous leading time. This wan encouraging for Ferrari after Red Bull had it all their own way on day one. An incident with debris coming off Lewis Hamilton’s car appeared to have some created some work for the Mercedes crew: the car was up off the ground, albeit with Hamilton still in the cockpit, and there was work going on. That didn’t appear to be part of the running programme.

There was more morning movements on the timesheet as Esteban Ocon got his Alpine up to fourth, a second off the pace. It is worth pointing out that Alpine were the slowest team on average yesterday.

Fernando Alonso improved on his time but remained third, just behind the Alfa Romeo, while Logan Sargeant moved up a place to seventh. It was a 1:34.084 for Formula 1’s newest American driver, knocking Lewis Hamilton down to eighth in the process.

With one hour to go until the end of the morning session there were more green mini sectors for Lewis Hamilton but once again, he couldn’t move up the order. He was 1.4s off Carlos Sainz and into the 1:33s, but remained in eighth. Norris and Tsunoda were ninth and 10th. There was also improvement for the rookie American in the Williams, how ran into the 1:32s. He was one thousandth of a second quicker than Fernando Alonso and four tenths off Carlos.

As is customary at the end of these testing sessions, we went through some procedures. We had a yellow flag, followed by a Virtual Safety Car, followed by a red flag, which saw the cars stop in the pit lane as they would in a race.

The second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain therefore ended, with Carlos Sainz topping the timesheets at the halfway point. The Spanish driver was busy setting lap times on a solid opening session on Thursday. The afternoon session will continue after the break, with Charles Leclerc returning behind the wheel of the SF-23 car to complete the Maranello team’s testing programme.

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