Verstappen shocks rivals with late lap to top final day in Bahrain

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F1 Test, Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen set a blistering pace with his Red Bull RB18 in the closing stages of the Bahrain's Official Pre-Season Test to finish fastest on the third and final day.

Red Bull debuted a raft of updates on the final day in Bahrain when it rolled out of the garage this morning. The most visible change was a significantly reshaped sidepod with further changes to the floor. The team’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez tried out the massively re-designed car in the morning, topping the session with a time of 1m33.105.

In the afternoon, reigning world champion Verstappen took over the car from the Mexican, albeit he waited for over an hour to roll out on to the Bahrain International track. The Dutchman laid down a marker on Pirelli’s C3 compound, working on setup tweaks and carrying out a series of aerodynamic measurements with his car coated with flow-viz paint.

The 24-year-old used a set of C4 tyre to go fastest before posting an even faster with a time of 1m 31.720s on the Milan based tyre supplier’s softest C5 compound. On his fastest lap, Verstappen set comfortably the fastest first, middle and third sector seen across the three days in Bahrain.

Verstappen’s benchmark left previous leader Charles Leclerc second, 0.695s off for Ferrari, and Alpine's Fernando Alonso in P3 having set his fastest lap in the dying minutes.

The Ferrari driver racked up a total of 51 laps after starting his session late. The Monegasque concentrated on setup tweaks before committing himself to a long run which turned out to be one of the most impressive and consistent long stints of the Bahrain test. His team mate Carlos Sainz ended the session P13 after running in the hotter morning conditions.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and seventeenth fastest respectively with both racking up high mileages. While Hamilton concentrated on heavy fuel running in the morning, Russell put his focus on fine-tuning the W13 with a series of C4 and C5 tyre runs.

With 40 minutes left, Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas posted an impressive lap with a time of 1m32.985s on the yellow-banded C3 compound. However, his car developed another reliability issue which forced him to stop at Turn 8 on his cool-down lap, triggering the second red flag of the day.

Bottas’ team mate Guanyu Zhou finished P11, gaining a great deal of experiences thanks to his tally of 82 laps.

AlphaTauri completed another positive day with Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly completing 57 and 91 laps respectively. The Japanese driver concentrated on short runs, working on the setup of his AT03 while the French racer put his focus on heavy fuel running.

Haas drivers Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen ended up P8 and P18 with the German bringing out the first red flag of the day as he spun coming out of the final corner. The American team started the day one hour early and continued the work after the chequered flag as the team was allowed to catch up on their missed running.

McLaren’s Lando Norris notched up a total of 90 laps thanks to the improvements to the brake cooling of his car. The Woking based outfit was hampered by brake issues on the first and second day of the Bahrain test which prevented them from completing long runs. The British squad brought new parts to rectify their brake overheating issue, but Team Principal Andreas Seidl said that McLaren still needs to work on their problems ahead of next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll was in the car in the morning, racking up a total of 53 laps. His team mate Sebastian Vettel enjoyed a productive evening of running, more than 80 laps set on his way to P10.

Williams followed a unique programme for the final day. Fourteenth-place Alex Albon had just 18 tours of Sakhir as the Grove based team put morning driver Nicholas Latifi (15th) back into the cockpit to bring his total to 124 laps.