Daniel Ricciardo’s promising start to his McLaren debut has continued after he held the fastest time at the end of the second morning of three preseason tests at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Ricciardo topped the first session of day one and excelled once again on the second, holding the fastest time of 1:32.215 in the morning session, 0.124 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso.
He finished the overall standings for the day in ninth as drivers in the afternoon session enjoyed more favorable conditions – including McLaren teammate Lance Stroll, who finished second behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
But the day was highlighted by a nightmare for reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who caused a red flag after spinning his car into the gravel.
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Mercedes completed the fewest laps of any team on day one after Bottas required a complete gearbox change, but this time it was Hamilton struggling.
“It’s very gusty, as I found out into Turn 13. The rear doesn’t feel particularly great but we are trying to find the sweet spot,” Hamilton said.
“It’s day two of testing so we’re just focused on understanding the car so there is no point being worried just yet.”
“It’s really rare to see a mistake from Lewis, especially at testing,” Sky Sports’ Karun Chandok said.
“I’m trying to think of all the pre-season tests I’ve been to in the last five, six years and I can’t think of one time he has been in the gravel.
“You see the odd thing where he goes off in the run-off area or something – but everyone does that. To see him cause a red flag, I can’t think of a moment like that.”
Martin Brundle added: “It’s so unusual to see Lewis looking at a stricken car these days but he’s not exactly the only driver to be flying off the road today.”
Hamilton was not the only one though, with Nicholas Latifi and Carlos Sainz both spinning earlier in the session while Sebastian Vettel only managed six laps after a gearbox problem cut his day short.
Vettel finished bottom of the timesheets in his new Aston MArtin, but Hamilton only managed second last in 15th – a huge shock for the reigning champion.
“Unfortunately, we did not have a very productive morning,” said Vettel. “It’s a long season (23 races) and I am sure that everything will be fine.”
Ricciardo: ‘Don’t get carried away’
“So far, so good,” he said at the end of day two. “Obviously everyone watching at home, they’ve seen me be top of both my sessions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see that, but I certainly don’t get carried away with it in testing.
“You just never know what everyone’s doing, so it’s important I focus on myself. It’s been running well, smoothly. First thing you want to get is reliability, and that’s been strong so far, so it’s allowed us to do the laps we need.”
He will take to the track in the evening session for the final day of testing, with teammate Lando Norris going out in the first session.
“I think all I’m missing now is a night session,” Ricciardo said. “I’ve had two of the morning day time sessions; the track’s hot and we do come here in the evening. So tomorrow, I’m on track at night and I’ll get probably a better feeling inside about how comfortable and ready I am with this car for two weeks’ time [at the Bahrain Grand Prix].
Alonso’s promising return
Another former world champion Fernando Alonso also took to the track after two years away.
The Spaniard was 10th fastest after completing 128 laps in the Alpine car.
Making it to the Gulf is an achievement in itself for the 2005 and 2006 world champion who is competing with two titanium plates in his upper jaw following a cycling accident last month.
“He is in great shape, he is sharp,” confirmed Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski.
End of opening session on Day Two timesheet
1. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:30.289 (58 laps)
2. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:30.413 (87)
3. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:30.460 (71)
4. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:30.586 (52)
5. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:30.760 (125)
6. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:30.886 (73)
7. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:31.672 (132)
8. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 1:31.682 (117)
9. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:32.215 (52)
10. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1:32.339 (128)
11. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/Alpha Tauri-Honda) 1:32.684 (57)
12. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:32.883 (88)
13. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) 1:33.072 (56)
14. Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) 1:33.101 (76)
15. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:33.399 (58)
16. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:38.849 (10)