Russell stars as he tops Friday practice for Sakhir GP

George Russell pic: George Russell Twitter

Mercedes substitute driver George Russell has starred on the opening day of practice for this weekend’s Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Englishman topped the opening session in the Mercedes usually occupied by Lewis Hamilton, who has been forced to miss the event with COVID-19.

Russell was similarly rapid in Free Practice 2, to again set the pace at the end of the 90-minute session.

It was a slow start to proceedings for the Williams regular, before improving to set the fastest time of the opening session at 54.546s, 0.176s quicker than anyone else.

By comparison, Valtteri Bottas in the sister-Mercedes could only must a 54.868s lap.

Russell’s best was a 54.713s as darkness fell on the Bahrain International Circuit and teams looked towards longer runs.

That was still more than a tenth clear of second placed Max Verstappen, though the Red Bull’s race pace looked a threat to Mercedes.

Bottas’ scrappy day, which saw him pinching brakes and running off the circuit, ended with him in 11th place with a best time in Practice 2 of 55.321s.

In terms of raw pace, the Finn demonstrated he had more speed, but lost laptimes due to track limits infringements, and like for like probably had the edge of Russell by 0.2s on a clear lap.

Alex Albon had been third fastest in Practice 1 but slipped to fifth in the later session as Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon both improved, though their times slower than what the Red Bull had managed earlier.

AlphaTauri also put in a strong showing with Daniil Kvyat ending the day sixth in Practice 2 having been fifth, one spot up from team-mate Pierre Gasly, in Practice 1.

At the foot of the timesheets, Charles Leclerc failed to record a time courtesy of a driveshaft issue in FP2 while a power unit problem for Lando Norris cut short his running.

In the other McLaren, Carlos Sainz suffered gearbox synchronisation issues which cost him time in the garage but ultimately wound up 10th fastest.

Daniel Ricciardo finished the day with ninth and eighth place times across the two sessions, improving marginally in Practice 2.

However, the Australian trailed team-mate Ocon in both hit outs, by a tenth in Practice 1 before that deficit doubled in Practice 2.

Elsewhere debutants Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken brought up the rear of the field, the former 0.9s off his Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen and the latter 0.4s shy of Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams in the opening 90-minute session.

The duo remained at the foot of the table in Practice 2, discounting Leclerc, though Fittipaldi found time in comparison to Magnussen to reduce his deficit to 0.4s.

Practice around the Outer Loop at the Bahrain International Circuit continues on Saturday (local time) ahead of qualifying at 04:00 AEDT Sunday morning.

Result: Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix, Practice 2

Pos Num Driver Team Time Diff
1 63 George Russell Mercedes 54.713
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 54.841 +0.128s
3 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 54.866 +0.153s
4 31 Esteban Ocon Renault 54.940 +0.227s
5 23 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing Honda 55.036 +0.323s
6 26 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri Honda 55.068 +0.355s
7 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 55.104 +0.391s
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55.124 +0.411s
9 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 55.133 +0.420s
10 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 55.258 +0.545s
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 55.321 +0.608s
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 55.484 +0.771s
13 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 55.533 +0.820s
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 55.738 +1.025s
15 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 55.784 +1.071s
16 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 55.830 +1.117s
17 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 56.031 +1.318s
18 51 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas Ferrari 56.110 +1.397s
19 89 Jack Aitken Williams Mercedes 56.260 +1.547s
20 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari

Result: Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix, Practice 1

Pos Num Driver Team Time Diff
1 63 George Russell Mercedes 54.546
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 54.722 +0.176s
3 23 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing Honda 54.811 +0.265s
4 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 54.868 +0.322s
5 26 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri Honda 55.011 +0.465s
6 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 55.166 +0.620s
7 31 Esteban Ocon Renault 55.273 +0.727s
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 55.281 +0.735s
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55.379 +0.833s
10 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 55.449 +0.903s
11 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 55.558 +1.012s
12 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 55.716 +1.170s
13 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 55.757 +1.211s
14 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 55.783 +1.237s
15 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 55.858 +1.312s
16 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 56.078 +1.532s
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 56.130 +1.584s
18 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 56.764 +2.218s
19 51 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas Ferrari 57.077 +2.531s
20 89 Jack Aitken Williams Mercedes 57.187 +2.641s

Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section

Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]