By Matt Morlidge
Max Verstappen underlined Red Bull’s status as a serious threat to Mercedes by finishing a closely-contested first day of Formula 1 2021 on top, leading Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain GP second practice.
In cooler night-time conditions which will be similar to qualifying and the race, Verstappen backed up his fastest time from the opening session by hooking up the quickest soft-tyre lap of the day, a 1:30.847 in his new RB16B car – which has carried on Red Bull’s early 2021 momentum in Sakhir.
Norris was within a tenth of a second of the Dutchman as the impressive McLaren continue to look like the class of the midfield, with seven-time Hamilton the lead Mercedes in third, 0.235s off Verstappen’s marker.
Encouragingly for Ferrari, new signing Carlos Sainz was only just behind Hamilton in fourth.
While more representative than P1, second practice certainly doesn’t guarantee the pecking order for the weekend – as highlighted by Bottas and Perez finishing only fifth and 10th in the other Mercedes and Red Bull – but Verstappen has got his season off to the perfect start with a practice double.
There are also very promising signs for a competitive F1 2021, with four teams split by 0.3s at the top P2 and 15 drivers within a second of Verstappen’s fastest team.
More to follow.
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