Valtteri Bottas put Mercedes at the top of the timesheet in the Saturday afternoon session in Bahrain, as the Brackley squad finally enjoyed a trouble-free program.
The Finn achieved his best effort on a set of C5 soft tyres in the final 30 minutes of the session, edging AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly by 0.124s and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll by 0.171s.
Bahrain Pre-Season Test – Day 2 – Final
The four-hour afternoon session kicked off with two teams seeking trouble-free runs after their morning woes: Aston Martin and Mercedes.
Lance Stroll replaced Sebastian Vettel on board Aston’s AMR21, hoping to be spared the gearbox issues that had restricted his teammate’s running earlier in the day.
At Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas followed Lewis Hamilton and the Finn was certainly looking forward to putting some proper mileage under his belt after achieving just six laps on Friday.
The first hour of the session was incident-free but Bottas was no where to be seen. The Finn finally emerged from the Merc garage, but the tardy start was a sure sign that all was not yet in order in the camp of the championship winning team.
And for good measure, Bottas suffered a huge moment on his first lap at Turn 11 where he ran wide.
Other first runners on the day, apart from Bottas and Stroll, included, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher and Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari driver’s workload included a long run on the hard tyre which the Monegasque completed in the first half of the session, while others indulged in various degrees of running, including Bottas putting a maximum amount of miles on the W12.
McLaren’s Norris was a late arrival to the session, but the Briton quickly got down to business.
Giovinazzi crossed the 100-lap marker which the Italian celebrated by going fastest with a 1m31.239s. However, the Alfa driver’s best effort was immediately beaten by Norris who shaved a few tenths off Gio’s time.
As the sun set on Sakhir and the floodlights lit up, the session was briefly red-flagged to allow for the retrieval on the track of Perez’s engine cover which had blown off the Red Bull while the Mexican was following Latifi’s Williams.
Giovinazzi once again sprung to the top, but again the Italian’s time was short lived as it was Gasly’s turn to put in a hot lap which worth was a 1m30.825s on a fresh set of soft rubber.
Meanwhile, Bottas, while not yet searching for a headline time, popped up to P4, the highest position so far for a Mercedes in pre-season testing. Leclerc was in tow in fifth position.
With track conditions improving and ambient temperatures cooling, performances followed suit. Norris once again took the lead with a fast run on the C4 soft compound that yielded a 1m30.586s, or the fastest lap so far in pre-season testing.
However, Gasly responded by bolting on a fresh set of even softer C5s and shaving 0.173s off the McLaren’s driver’s time. The Frenchman thus entered the final 30 minutes at the top of the timesheet.
Bottas continued to dial in more speed in the W12, laying down a 1m30.460s personal best with the help of the C5 tyre that put the Finn P2.
But the Mercedes driver – his W12 brought alive by the softer compound – pressed on and eventually snatched P1 from Gasly with a 1m30.289s.
Bottas’ best time was the final benchmark of the day and cleared Gasly’s best by 0.124s, while. Aston’s Stroll concluded the day with a solid P3, just ahead of Norris and the relentless Giovinazzi.
The Ferrari-powered Alfa driver beat Scuderia counterpart Leclerc, while marathon man Latifi, Perez, Ricciardo, whose time was set in the morning session, and Alonso rounded off the top five.
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