Max Verstappen claimed a clean sweep of Sunday top times for Red Bull by setting the fastest lap of Formula 1’s pre-season testing weekend in Bahrain.
The afternoon began as the previous days have, with teams electing to do practice starts and longer-runs iwhile waiting for cooler conditions for faster laps.
Verstappen set the benchmark and was the long time leader after beating team-mate Sergio Perez’s morning lap with around an hour and 50 minutes to go on the C3 medium tyre.
Despite the interloping Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen briefly going top with 55 minutes to go on his 141st tour of the track on Sunday, it was a battle between Yuki Tsunoda and Verstappen for the top honours.
Rookie AlphaTauri driver Tsunoda – who spun at Turn 7 earlier in the afternoon – appeared to have the top spot secured inside the last hour and then extended his margin over Verstappen to 0.451s.
Tsunoda’s lap – had it been tidier – could probably have dipped into the 1m28s but ended up as a 1m29.282s.
Verstappen then bolted on the soft C4 tyre for the first time on Sunday and became the first driver into the 1m28s with a 1m28.960s.
It was faster than any lap in Bahrain late last year, as Verstappen added 64 laps to Perez’s 49 from the morning.
Just as Verstappen crossed the line for his fastest lap, Tsunoda followed closely behind now on the softer C5 tyre to improve but still 0.093s in arrears to Verstappen with 30 minutes to go.
Amid a flurry of very late improvements, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr rebounded from a reported transmission issue that delayed his running to nail a 1m29.611s lap on the C4 soft to go third fastest, ahead of Raikkonen who ended the day with 165 laps.
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In a bizarre incident, Sainz and Raikkonen appeared to make contact following the chequered flag after the two had been slipstreaming eachother down the back straight.
Lewis Hamilton’s afternoon running started an hour later than others’ and he spent most of the session outside of the top 10 for Mercedes, but jumped into the top five with a late run on the C5 soft as he completed 54 laps for the day.
An effort to better that lap was ruined by a spin while booting the throttle onto the start finish straight, after which he was lucky not to be hit by the following Nikita Mazepin.
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George Russell was another late improver and the second busiest driver of the day after Raikkonen as he took sixth for Williams on the C5 tyre in another strong day for the rebounding team.
While most drivers went for a performance run in the last hour, Daniel Ricciardo didn’t appear to and ended the session seventh for McLaren, ahead of morning pacesetter Perez’s Red Bull.
Of the afternoon runners, Fernando Alonso was in the Ricciardo camp of not taking a late performance run and was ninth, while Mazepin was 14th fastest.
Sebastian Vettel had been busy for Aston Martin early in the afternoon, but had to stop after 56 laps due to a loss of boost pressure.
Vettel has managed just 117 laps across the first test – just over two race distances – in his first proper outing for his new team.
1. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m28.960s
2. Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 1m29.053s
3. Sainz (Ferrari) 1m29.611s
4. Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) 1m29.766s
5. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m30.025s
6. Russell (Williams) 1m30.117s
7. Ricciardo (McLaren) 1m30.144s
8. Perez (Red Bull) 1m30.187s
9. Alonso (Alpine) 1m30.318s
10. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m30.486s
11. Norris (McLaren) 1m30.661s
12. Gasly (AlphaTauri) 1m30.828s
13. Ocon (Alpine) 1m31.310s
14. Mazepin (Haas) 1m31.531s
15. Schumacher (Haas) 1m32.053s
16. Bottas (Mercedes) 1m32.406s
17. Vettel (Aston Martin) 1m35.041s
18. Stroll (Aston Martin) 1m36.100s