Max Verstappen underlined the threat Red Bull seem poised to carry to Mercedes when the F1 season begins in two weeks’ time by topping the final day of testing in Bahrain.
On the day Lewis Hamilton predicted Red Bull would be a “different animal” this year after an impressive pre-season, Verstappen set the quickest time of the shortened three-day programme with a lap of 1:28.960.
All of the leading times came in the closing hour of the session under Bahrain’s floodlights, with teams trying shorter simulations on what would have been various levels of fuel loads.
Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who has impressed in his first pre-season, ran Verstappen closest with a series of quick laps in an AlphaTauri car that has also caught the eye.
World champions Mercedes were fifth, one second behind Verstappen, although the reality is they will be rather closer than that when the racing season begins back in Bahrain on March 26-28.
However, the first test with their new W12 has undoubtedly proved trickier than recent seasons and Hamilton again spun.
“This test has shown us that the order has been mixed up a little bit, and to an extent, closed up,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.
Ferrari and Aston Martin both ran into reliability problems, a particular blow to the latter who had also experienced delays with the AMR21 on the opening two days.
More to follow…
Bahrain Testing: Day Three timesheet
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:28.960, 64 laps, soft tyres (C4)
2. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +0.093, 91 laps, soft tyres (C5)
3. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +0.651, 79 laps, soft tyres (C4)
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, +0.806, 166laps, soft tyres (C5)
5. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +1.065, 54 laps, soft tyres (C5)
6. George Russell, Williams, +1.157, 158 laps, soft tyres (C5)
7. Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, +1.184, 76 laps, soft tyres (C4)
8. Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +1.227, 49 laps, soft tyres (C4)
9. Fernando Alonso, Alpine, +1.358, 78 laps, soft tyres (C4)
10. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +1.526, 80 laps, medium tyres (C3)
11. Lando Norris, McLaren, +1.701, 56 laps, medium tyres (C3)
12. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, +1.868, 76 laps, soft tyres (C4)
13. Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +2.350, 61 laps, medium tyres (C3)
14. Nikita Mazepin, Haas, +2.571, 67 laps, soft tyres (C4)
15. Mick Schumacher, Haas, +3.093, 78 laps, medium tyres (C3)
16. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, +3.446, 86 laps, medium tyres (C3)
17. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, +6.081, 56 laps, medium tyres (C3)
18. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +7.140, 80 laps, medium tyres (C3)
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