Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin will go to bed with smiles on their faces this evening after a strong showing in Friday practice in Bahrain.
Much of the winter break and pre-season talk centred around the Silverstone-based team’s chances this coming campaign and it appears with good reason, with Fernando Alonso inside the top two for both practice sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit, as he topped FP2 – a session that is usually a good indicator of what is to come in qualifying.
Indeed, it very much looks as though it could be Fernando v Red Bull on Saturday for pole position, with Sergio Perez topping the first session earlier on in the day ahead of the Spaniard, whilst Max Verstappen was third.
Meanwhile, later on in the day, Verstappen found himself behind Alonso and ahead of Perez, with excitement building around the paddock that we could well see a new team in the fight up at the sharp end.
Whether Lance Stroll joins Alonso up at the front, though, remains to be seen. The Canadian got his first taste of the AMR23 after missing testing thanks to a double wrist injury caused by a cycling accident, and found himself going sixth fastest in FP1 and then again in FP2.
Respectable efforts on both occasions, of course, but during the second session he complained about his hands as the team requested he tried a different line through corners one and two, and it’ll be interesting to see how things develop tonight in terms of any potential flare up – he will be hoping that there are no such issues.
On race runs during the day, meanwhile, it still looked as though Red Bull were the team to beat, however, suggesting that they will be carrying their strong Sunday form with them into 2023.
Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc posted the fifth and then fourth-fastest times on Friday in the two sessions, with him hoping that Ferrari are going to be in the fight again this season and not usurped by Aston in that position.
Lando Norris again showed his class, meanwhile, as he got himself inside the top ten in both sessions in the McLaren, despite the concerns the team obviously had in testing last week.
Mercedes, meanwhile, look as though they will once again start this season a little off of the pace at the front of the field. The Silver Arrows naturally hope that the W14 is going to restore them to the front of the pack but neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell were close to even the top six on the timing screens – something they will want to be achieving bare minimum at the start of this year after they finished third in the standings in 2022.
Speaking after practice, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton couldn’t disguise his concerns over the car’s performance.
“I think we found we’re a long way off,” said Hamilton. “We kind of knew that a little bit in the test but it’s a big gap and I’m trying everything out there I can but it is what it is. Asked what felt more comfortable of long and short runs today, Hamilton replied by saying “neither.”
That’s Friday practice done for the Bahrain Grand Prix, then, and up next is FP3 tomorrow afternoon before qualifying for the first race of the 2023 season.
There’s excitement around a potential fight between Fernando Alonso and the Red Bull cars for pole, whilst we look set for at least a couple of surprises as well judging by how both sessions finished in terms of classification.
Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Oscar Piastri, Yuki Tsunoda, Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon, Nyck de Vries, Pierre Gasly, Logan Sargeant, Alex Albon, Carlos Sainz.
Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Zhou Guanyu, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Oscar Piastri, Kevin Magnussen, Alex Albon, Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries, Logan Sargeant.
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