George Russell maintained his strong start to his Mercedes debut as he completed a sweep of Friday’s practice sessions at Formula 1’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Williams regular Russell has replaced Lewis Hamilton for this weekend’s event on the Outer Layout of the Bahrain International Circuit and led the way in FP1.
Russell remained on top in FP2 though was dealt a helping hand as Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had the overall best time deleted.
After several drivers ran wide through the exit of Turn 8 in FP1 it was revealed that Race Control would enforce track limits at the complex.
Bottas set a best time of 54:506s – the quickest of the day – but it was erased from the record books after he exceeded track limits, and he abandoned a follow-up effort after again going wide.
It meant Russell’s legal time of 54:713s proved to be the benchmark beneath the lights in the 90-minute session.
Bottas, meanwhile, finished down in 11th, his best time coming on Hards, compounding a difficult day by running wide through the Turn 5 gravel late in the session.
Verstappen second again
As in FP1 Russell’s closest challenger was Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
Verstappen’s best time put him just 0.128s shy of the Mercedes stand-in but the Dutchman expressed frustration with the handling of the RB16.
Verstappen complained over the car bouncing under braking for Turn 1 and was irritated by understeer, an aspect which was also highlighted by team-mate Alexander Albon.
Verstappen abandoned another push lap after going wide through Turn 8.
Albon finished down in fifth spot as the Red Bull drivers were split by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who continued his strong run of form, and the quietly impressive Renault of Esteban Ocon.
A nightmare evening for Ferrari
Ferrari endured a difficult time at the first Bahrain event, scoring just a single point, and its prospects again look bleak after an awful evening.
Sebastian Vettel spun twice during the session, once at Turn 2 and another time through the exit of Turn 5, narrowly missing striking Kevin Magnussen, who had pulled out of the way to allow the Ferrari driver through.
It meant Vettel finished down in 16th position, with his best time coming on Mediums, though he at least set a timed effort.
Charles Leclerc suffered a driveshaft failure early in the session and toured back to the garage, where Ferrari began a repair, the duration of which meant he did not re-appear on-track.
McLaren also endured a difficult session amid issues for both Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Sainz finished at the foot of the top 10, behind Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly, and suffered a gear sync problem that cost him track time.
Lando Norris was only 17th amid floor damage and completed only 14 laps in a session in which some of his rivals lapped the short track over 50 times.
Rookies get up to speed
Both Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi and Williams’ Jack Aitken made errors in FP1 that damaged a set of tyres and cost them track time.
But in FP2 they stayed out of trouble to rack up the mileage ahead of their respective debuts.
Fittipaldi and Aitken finished 18th and 19th, four positions behind their team-mates Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi, with Fittipaldi three-tenths off Magnussen and Aitken half a second down on full-season rookie Latifi.
Both Haas and Williams trailed regular 2020 opponent Alfa Romeo, with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finishing 12th and 13th respectively.
Saturday’s final practice session will begin at 14:00 local time.