SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Formula One champion Max Verstappen quickly got back to business for Red Bull by leading the second practice session at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix under floodlights on Friday.
Rival Lewis Hamilton continued to struggle for Mercedes and was only ninth fastest. His teammate, George Russell, fared better in fourth.
Verstappen was fifth in first practice earlier Friday but the Dutchman improved to finish ahead of Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Verstappen’s time of 1 minute, 31.94 seconds put him a narrow .09 ahead of Leclerc and .58 clear of Sainz on an encouraging day for Ferrari.
Hamilton was a distant 1.2 seconds behind Verstappen’s leading mark on a disappointing day where the seven-time F1 champion placed seventh in the first practice.
There is a third and final practice on Saturday ahead of qualifying in cooler evening conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.
Friday’s first practice was led by AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, with Leclerc and Sainz also second and third as Ferrari’s encouraging performance from preseason testing continued.
Russell was fourth in his first practice since replacing Valtteri Bottas on the team. Hamilton was a considerable .75 back from Gasly’s time, and the gap to the leader only grew bigger in the second session.
The first session had been interrupted early on by a red flag when some bodywork came off Esteban Ocon’s Alpine car and spread debris on the track.
German driver Nico Hulkenberg, driving for Aston Martin as four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel recovers from the coronavirus, rolled over the debris.