Whilst Haas‘ Kevin Magnussen surprisingly topped the timing sheets on the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, Ferrari underlined their impressive speed with another strong day, leaving many teams feeling they have the car to beat going into the final day.
There’s a sense of cautious optimism at Ferrari, given their previous failures to deliver a championship which stretches back to 2008.
Nevertheless, Sainz and Charles Leclerc must be happy with their test so far after a clean three days in Barcelona, and two more impressive test days at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Why Ferrari will be title challengers in 2022
Ferrari completed 114 laps on day two with, just six laps less than AlphaTauri which were the benchmark team in the mileage charts on Friday.
Everyone is having trouble with porpoising and severe understeer, but the Ferrari looks the best nearly every time Leclerc and Sainz are out on track.
Sainz‘s 1:33.532 on the C4 compound was done despite being behind Lewis Hamilton in the final sector and running a detuned engine on that lap, which we were able to see by looking at the mini sector times.
Without doubt Max Verstappen was pushing hard on the C4 tyres during the final hour of day two, yet he was 0.479 seconds slower than Sainz‘s time which was set when the temperatures were much higher.
It gets better for Ferrari because Leclerc conducted a race simulation in the morning at the same time as George Russell and was faster.
Both conducted 14 laps stints on the C3 tyre compound to start their simulation, with Leclerc averaging a 1:42.1 and Russell averaging a 1:43.1.
One key observation was Leclerc started a lot quicker, before experiencing a lot of tyre degradation whilst Russell strung together a consistent set of laps in the 1:42s.
Even if Russell had more fuel and wasn’t pushing as much, it bodes well for Ferrari to have such strong pace on a long run and Sainz‘s run on the C3 tyres in the evening was stunning as he averaged a 1:40.7 before red flags interrupted his race simulation.
Don’t forget, the Bahrain International Circuit is also one of the hardest tracks on the 2022 F1 calendar on the tyres.
Sebastian Vettel and Yuki Tsunoda also simulated the first stint of a Grand Prix on the C3 tyre compound, with Vettel also looking strong.
Of course, fuel loads and engine levels are unknown but Aston Martin also had a great day with Lance Stroll performing well in the afternoon as well.
C3 tyre first stint of a Grand Prix averages
|Driver||Leclerc (AM)||Russell (AM)||Vettel (AM)||Tsunoda (PM)||Sainz (PM)|
|Avg. lap time||1:42.1||1:43.1||1:42.0||1:43.5||1:40.7|
A wise development path from Ferrari?
Team principal Mattia Binotto made it clear Ferrari were not going to bring any major upgrades to the Bahrain test, and that any big developments would only be made for the third event at the Australian GP.
That may surprise you as Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren have all brought significant updates to the second pre-season test.
However, as we have seen so far, it’s Ferrari that are setting the pace as they look to exploit the potential of their current package, rather than looking for a big chunk of time with new parts of the car.
The only area Ferrari have tested a new part is with the floor, to try and find the best solution to the ongoing porpoising issues.
There are no negatives at the moment regarding Ferrari and Leclerc‘s comments to Sky Italia that the team have very good correlation between their new simulator and the on-track car, is further excellent news for the Tifosi.
How are Red Bull getting on?
Red Bull have quietly been going about their business during the first two days of testing and are set to bring plenty of new parts for the final day of pre-season testing.
You can interpret this in two ways: Red Bull are confident which is why the developments are only coming on Saturday, or they have pushed hard in the factory to try and find more speed in the car with new parts.
Verstappen was certainly close to the limit of the RB18, but couldn’t find the pace to match the Ferraris.
The World Champion looked all over the place on high and low fuel, a complete contrast to last year’s test when Verstappen was oozing confidence with every lap he turned.
If Red Bull are going to be contending for the win at the season-opening Bahrain GP, they must at least show a sign of excellent speed on the final day in Sakhir.
Are McLaren the big losers of Bahrain testing?
There was so much promise for McLaren following testing in Barcelona, but a brake problem meant Lando Norris was unable to conduct any long runs on Friday.
Daniel Ricciardo is yet to get behind the wheel at the season pre-season test due to an illness, which will also put him on the backfoot.
Norris has only done 110 laps during both days of Bahrain testing so far, so McLaren‘s confidence is slowly dwindling due to their lack of track time.
Encouragement at Alpine
Alpine‘s El Plan certainly hasn’t been going as the team intended, but they will be delighted to complete 111 laps on day two in Sakhir with Esteban Ocon fastest in the morning session.
It’s the best Alpine have looked throughout both tests, as Ocon seemed to enjoy the handling of the A522.
Ocon caused a red flag in the afternoon, but it was a precautionary stoppage, and he was back out before the end of the session.
The engine ran reliably and Fernando Alonso is confident that they have more performance to bring to the car. Positive signs at Alpine.
Latifi’s car catches fire
Williams had a difficult day after their car caught fire, when Nicholas Latifi was on his 12th lap of the morning.
The team say the issue that caused the fire was minor, but damage caused by the fire put them out of running for the rest of the day
Up until them, Williams have looked very good, showing strong pace on the long runs which suggest they will be in and amongst the midfield battle this season.
Alex Albon says Williams test has been pretty good, so the team can be quietly confident about fighting for points in the opening races.