Zhou sets benchmark on Day 2 as Red Bull demonstrates eye-catching long stints

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F1 Test, Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu set the fastest time of F1 pre-season testing so far in Bahrain with a late push lap on the red-walled Pirelli tyre while reigning world champion Max Verstappen produced a series of eye-catching long runs.

Alfa Romeo had a very promising day after the team managed to rack up high mileage on Day 2 of the three-day pre-season testing. Following the opening day on which both Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas sat in the new C43, today saw the Chinese driver represent the Swiss-Italian team on the whole day.

Zhou notched up a total of 132 laps and performed low fuel runs on Pirelli’s softer compounds, registering a benchmark of 1m31.610s as the second day came to a close.

Max Verstappen ended up second fastest, albeit he set his own benchmark on the harder C3 compound. More impressive was the fact that he set his own benchmark right after the lunch break in much hotter conditions, demonstrating the underlying pace of his new RB19. Similar to his teammate Sergio Perez, the Dutchman sacrificed the second half of his running to long runs, showing eye-catching tyre performance and consistency on Pirelli’s C1, C2 and C3 compounds.

Ferrari had a smooth day following their balance issues on the opening day. Carlos Sainz's morning stint saw him end up sixth on the board with 70 laps with team mate Charles Leclerc taking over to clock more than 60 laps and finish eighth overall. Both drivers completed a similar program throughout the day with setup work on several new sets of C3 compound followed by long runs on high fuel.

Logan Sargeant was the most diligent rookie driver yesterday which he could replicate on Day 2 of the Pre-Season Testing. The American rookie driver finished seventh and led the mileage stakes – more than 150 laps under his belt.

Mercedes had a very difficult day today. The Brackley-based outfit split the driving duties today with Lewis Hamilton driving the all-black W14 in the morning before George Russell took over the car for the afternoon session. The team reported on Thursday afternoon that they did not experience bouncing issues which was their biggest problem throughout the 2022 season.

However, thing looked more difficult on Friday. The team’s 2023 car looked nervous and instable in the hands of the seven-time world champion with the corner exits proving a major trouble for the W14.

To add further complications, the Brackley-based team suffered a setback as George Russell’s car broke down due to a hydraulic failure. The one-time F1 race winner was stuck in fourth gear and parked up his new car at Turn 10.

In the end, Hamilton ended up in P15 with 72 laps to his name while his team mate Russell completed only 26 laps, recording the 13th fastest lap time.

McLaren endured another difficult day. Lando Norris completed 65 laps and finished down in P16 while his new team mate Oscar Piastri logged in 74 laps of running.

While the mileage was encouraging on the second day of the three-day test running, the performance indicated that the team has to catch up if it wants to fight for top places. The Woking-based outfit has admitted today that it failed to hit development targets with its 2023 Formula 1 car.