Fernando Alonso was fastest from Max Verstappen in the second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Aston Martin proved they are at the sharp end of the grid on merit.
After an impressive pre-season test, excitement surrounding Aston Martin has built throughout the week and Alonso‘s 1:30.907 was 0.169 seconds quicker than Verstappen under the lights in Sakhir.
Verstappen was a quarter of a second down in the first sector, before going purple in the middle sector and was slightly slower than the Spaniard in the final sector.
Sergio Perez, who was quickest in FP1, was in third place, just 0.002 seconds behind his teammate in the most representative session ahead of qualifying.
Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari, albeit 0.460 seconds down on Alonso with Haas‘ Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, just half a second off the pace.
Lance Stroll briefly went to the top of the time sheets when the qualifying simulations began, but dropped to sixth, ahead of Pierre Gasly. However, the Canadian was struggling with his left hand in Turn 1, having made a surprise return to the paddock following his mountain bike accident.
Mercedes‘ downbeat mood was showcased throughout Friday as Lewis Hamilton could only manage eighth in FP2 and George Russell was 13th.
McLaren are not as bad as some feared with Lando Norris slotting into ninth and Oscar Piastri 15th, whilst Carlos Sainz‘s difficult day saw him in 14th.
Alfa Romeo are in the middle of the closely congested pack as Zhou Guanyu finished in 10th and Valtteri Bottas was 10th.
Esteban Ocon was only 0.701 behind former teammate Alonso, but in 11th, with Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon, Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant in the bottom five places.
Aston Martin and Alonso will give Red Bull a problem
Anyone who thought Red Bull would have it easy can think again. Alonso‘s pace in testing, particularly on the final day when he conducted a full race simulation, was mighty.
He will have a great chance of taking a 99th podium in Formula 1 on Sunday and even if he is not on the front row after qualifying, Aston Martin‘s race pace looked promising too.
Despite a far from smooth Friday for Ferrari, they are not too far away and should they optimise their setup overnight, Leclerc could still be in the fight for pole position.
Verstappen was clearly not as happy with the car throughout Friday compared to testing, complaining about the car moving around. Despite that, he is still favourite for the season-opener.