Verstappen sets the pace in practice for Bahrain Grand Prix

Sports Desk, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) gave a clear signal Friday of his intent to challenge for the 2021 Formula One title by finishing first in both practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The reigning king of F1, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), was fourth in Free Practice 1. The Briton improved in FP FP2 to take third place behind Verstappen and Lando Norris (McLaren).

The Dutchman was 0.298 seconds faster than Hamilton’s Finnish teammate, Valtteri Bottas, in FP1, but beat British driver Norris by just 0.095s in the second session. Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who joined Ferrari at the end of last season from McLaren, took fourth place in FP2, followed by Bottas.

Sainz’s replacement at McLaren, Australian veteran Daniel Ricciardo, was the sixth-fastest in FP2, ahead of Japanese F1 newcomer Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Canada’s Lance Stroll (Aston Martin).

Rounding out the top 10 were Frenchman Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Mexico’s Sergio Perez (Red Bull).

France’s Esteban Ocon of (Alpine Renault) was 11th, just ahead of the other Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc of Monaco.

Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) was 13th, followed by four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who left Ferrari for Racing Point – rebranded as Aston Martin – at the conclusion of the Scuderia’s worst campaign in decades.

Fernando Alonso, winner of back-to-back F1 titles in 2005 and 2006, finished 15th behind the wheel of his Alpine Renault.

The 39-year-old Spaniard is returning to Formula One after stepping away to pursue the Triple Crown of motorsport: the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

Alonso, winner in Monaco in 2006 and 2007, hoisted the trophy at Le Mans in 2018 and 2019, claiming the 2019 FIA World Endurance Championship title, and competed three times in the Indy 500.

Another former champion, Kimi Raikkonen, had the first mishap of the 2021 season, hitting the wall in his Alfa Romeo. The Finn managed to complete the session and finished 16th.

Mick Schumacher, the son of F1 legend Michael Schumacher, was 18th in FP2 as he made his debut in the sport with Haas. EFE mam/dr

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