Alonso sets Bahrain practice flier, near-misses for Piastri and Norris
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 4th March, 2023 - 3:00am
Fernando Alonso suggested Aston Martin’s testing pace was no fluke as the two-time F1 champion set the pace in the second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The team emerged from the three days of running last week at the Bahrain International Circuit as a potential dark horse for the campaign, and Alonso did not disappoint.
The Spanish driver, who joined Aston Martin over the winter following a contentious exit from Alpine, set the pace on the soft-tyre qualifying simulation runs with a lap of 1:30.907s, a second quicker than the leading FP2 lap from a year ago.
Alonso finished 0.169s ahead of fellow double title-holder Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman two-thousandths-of-a-second up on team-mate Sergio Perez, who had topped the FP1 timesheet.
Verstappen had complained earlier in the session that his RB19 was “jumping around more than in testing” but the 25-year-old appeared unfazed later on to suggest Red Bull will still be the team to beat in qualifying.
Whilst the times still have to be taken with a pinch of salt, the leading lap from Alonso was still impressive and has suggested Aston Martin could feature heavily in the reckoning this campaign.
Piastri and Norris both take evasive action
As for McLaren, there was a scare for both Oscar Piastri and team-mate Lando Norris.
Just 10 minutes into the session, Melburnian Piastri engaged in a drag race with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda down the long start-finish at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Approaching Turn 1, however, Piastri encountered Lance Stroll in the middle of the track as the Canadian had just emerged out of the pit lane exit in his Aston Martin.
The McLaren driver was forced to take evasive action at the last moment, swerving to his right to avoid running into the back of Stroll, culminating in a lock-up.
Moments later, Piastri locked up and ran off the track at Turn 1. Asked if everything “was okay”, he replied: “Yeah, the flat spot was too bad”, referring to the patch on his front left from the previous incident.
After 25 minutes, it was Norris’ turn for a close encounter.
Touring down the pit lane, another F1 rookie this season in Nyck de Vries was given the all clear by his AlphaTauri team to pull out of the garage.
Norris, however, was forced to apply the brakes sharply to avoid a collision. Turning to the radio, the British driver said: “I almost just crashed in the pit lane.”
The stewards are to investigate AlphaTauri for an unsafe release, which is certain to lead to a penalty.
Leclerc best of the rest
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who had run a prototype rear wing in FP1 which has now been ditched for the rest of the weekend after it oscillated wildly during that session, was fourth quickest behind Alonso, Verstappen and Perez.
Leclerc had complained about his clutch early on, suggesting there was “something strange” with the system before reporting it to be “all good” as the session wore on.
The Monégasque finished 0.460s behind Alonso, with Haas newcomer Nico Hulkenberg just nine-thousandths-of-a-second adrift, followed by the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.
That was a commendable effort from Stroll given he recently broke both wrists in a cycling accident whilst training in Spain.
Stroll had surgery to repair the right wrist, in particular, resulting in him missing all three days of pre-season testing.
The Canadian driver’s return has been rapid, yet late in the session he complained about his wrists as he was unable to make manoeuvres being asked of him.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes, Norris and Zhou Guanyu in his Alfa Romeo completed the top 10, with the Chinese driver 0.679s off the pace.
Piastri was 15th overall, 1.117s back, whilst the third of this year’s rookies in Logan Sargeant for Williams propped up the standings, 1.842s back.
Results: Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 2
|1||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||24||1:30.907|
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||23||1:31.076||0.169|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||25||1:31.078||0.171|
|6||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||26||1:31.450||0.543|
|10||24||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo Sauber||26||1:31.586||0.679|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Sauber||26||1:31.793||0.886|
|18||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||26||1:32.525||1.618|
|19||21||Nyck de Vries||Scuderia AlphaTauri||26||1:32.605||1.698|
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