By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 18/03/22 4:06pm
Max Verstappen finished the first day of Formula 1’s 2022 season on top after edging Charles Leclerc in Bahrain GP second practice, with Red Bull and Ferrari moving clear of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton struggling down in ninth.
The evening session, in cooler and more representative Bahrain conditions similar to qualifying and the race, provided an intriguing pecking order for the season-opening weekend as the grid revealed their true pace, and it was dominated by two teams, and two drivers in their all-new cars.
Leclerc led for much of the hour in the incredibly consistent Ferrari, but world champion Verstappen stormed to the front for Red Bull come the qualifying simulations on soft tyres – posting a 1:31.936.
It was a benchmark that would not be beaten despite Leclerc’s best efforts, with the Monegasque finding more pace on his final fast lap but finishing just 0.087s adrift.
Carlos Sainz was third and half a second off in the other Ferrari, who appear to be a genuine contender at the front and, as predicted by many after pre-season, look set to go toe to toe with Red Bull.
But the hope of a three-team fight may be fading this weekend, with Mercedes still unable to match their rivals.
While George Russell was reasonably competitive, 0.6s off the front in fourth, seven-time champion Hamilton could only manage a meagre ninth place. Both drivers, meanwhile, were bouncing along in their cars with Mercedes seemingly unable to fix their ‘porpoising issues’, nor unlock their W13’s speed.
“Some sort of problem with the front brakes man, the front right is pulling,” said Hamilton on team radio.
More to follow.
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