Bahrain GP FP2: Hamilton leads Russell, but Verstappen?

BahrainGP FP2: Hamilton leads Russell, but Verstappen?

Bahrain GP FP2: Hamilton leads Russell, but Verstappen?

Lewis Hamilton went fastest of all at the end of FP2 for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, teammate George Russell second fastest, while Max Verstappen was only sixth fastest.

The seven-time Formula 1 Champion seemed to be on it since the session started, as he went to the top of the timing screens from his first qualifying simulation, improving his time from the second attempt and remained there unchallenged.

Russell capped off an encouraging session for Mercedes, second fastest behind Hamilton and ahead of Fernando Alonso, third in the Aston Martin.

As for Verstappen, he was almost half a second off the pace of Hamilton in sixth, the reigning F1 Champion presumably keeping his powder dry? It was reported that the Honda power unit was not dialed up. Otherwise, that means everyone got their predictions very wrong after testing.

Noteworthy that he was not really happy with the car, proof being in his numerous complaints about the car in the morning session, but Red Bull usually find pace between the first and second day of the weekend.

And while the Dutchman did not post any headline grabbing time in the second practice session in Bahrain, his pace on the long run was quite strong, consistent meaning the RB20 handles its tyres well.

That of course is in line with the pattern we saw from Red Bull in 2023, not the strongest in qualifying at every occasion but blowing everyone away come race day.

Verstappen did report after FP2 that he was not really worried about the gap to Hamilton. He told F1 TV: “I am not too worries about the gap to P1.”

With FP2 being as close as it gets to qualifying and the race in terms of track conditions, one would’ve hoped to develop an initial idea about the 2024 pecking order.

So Mercedes seem to be in a decent place, but Verstappen’s sixth position is probably an outlier, but we will only have to wait till Friday afternoon, when there is no more hiding, as all the teams will run their car at full beans on low fuel and the final pecking order will emerge.

Carlos Sainz’s fourth place and Oscar Piastri’s fifth showed that the top five teams are close on qualifying pace, but again, let’s wait for Friday.

Buildup towards FP2

Daniel Ricciardo topping FP1 was certainly a surprise, not because that means he will be on pole come Friday, but it showed that the RBs have an improved car in 2024.

Aside from RB, McLaren and Sauber, none of the teams used the Soft compound, which seems to be a shrewd move as there would be not benefit from using them in the morning practice session where conditions are very different from those of qualifying and the race which are more similar to FP2.

The teams just seemed to be taking it easy and testing more parts on the cars and doing some validation work as they kicked off their business at the Sakhir Circuit.

So the second practice session, in cooler conditions and under floodlights, in Bahrain will be the one to watch and try to make some predictions.

Bahrain FP2 session highlights

FP2 started after the sunset in windy conditions with track temperatures at 23 degrees centigrade with ambient temperature at 17 degrees. Similar conditions are expected for qualifying but not for the race.

The drivers did not waste any time setting out on track as soon as the pitlane was open, with the Softs being the tyre compound of choice.

Bottas was soon in trouble as he was under investigation for pitlane infringement as he did not join the fast lane in the pits and remained on the concrete part.

On track however, the drivers were getting on with the business, doing some fast laps on the Soft tyres, with several drivers taking turn on occupying the top spot.

Verstappen did not join the action almost until ten minutes elapsed from the session. He set out on the Soft Pirellis as well. His first effort puts him fourth on the timing screens.

Norris on track was not enjoying his MCL38 as he reported that it is bottoming more than before. That McLaren was bottoming considerably in FP1 by the way.

It also seems that Mercedes are running their W15 quite low, and it could be clearly seen slamming the track with a lot of sparks coming out.

Leclerc reported a mistake on the last corner, and was worried about the floor of his SF-24, as it seemed it had taken a serious hit.

The first round of laps saw Hamilton top the timing screens with a 1:30.751. That is 15 minutes into the session.

Russell did not seem happy with the car which necessitated a return to the garage and setup change on the front suspension.

Verstappen complained about too much air coming into his helmet, while Norris was asking McLaren for another steering wheel. The Briton seemed to be trying out steering wheels with different configurations.

With 25 minutes passed, several drivers bolted new Soft tyres on and set out for another qualifying simulation, before the have to go and do some long runs on high fuel loads.

The wind was not making the drivers’ life easy as the wrestled their cars to keep them pointing in the right directions coming out of several corners, especially Turn 4.

And Leclerc soon complained about Stroll being in the middle of the track because “they don’t look in their mirrors” according to the Ferrari drivers.

Halfway into the session, the track was busy with drivers pounding in the laps on the Soft tyres.

Sargeant has a scruffy lap on his second set of Softs, wobbly into Turn 1 but goes for an off-track excursion in Turn 2.

The final twenty minutes saw the drivers set out on their race simulations on high fuel loads with the Soft tyres first.

Practice starts concluded the session.

How they finished

Hamilton clocked a 1:30.374 to go fastest in FP2 and 0.206s faster than Russell in the sister W15 with Alonso a 0.080s further down in third.

Sainz was fourth fastest in the Ferrari, 0.395s off the pace and 0.015s ahead of Piastri who was the fastest of the McLarens in fifth. Norris was down in 20th.

Verstappen was sixth fastest with a 1:30851 and was only 0.033s faster than Nico Hulkenberg in seventh a marked improvement for the US outfit compared to pre-season testing.

Stroll was eighth fastest in the other AMR24 and 0.222s ahead of Leclerc, ninth in the Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Perez in tenth.

Bahrain FP2 Classification

Image

Report in progress…