Bahrain Grand Prix – Fernando Alonso ended the opening day of the 2023 F1 season with the fastest lap, over a tenth and a half quicker than Max Verstappen.
Lance Stroll was the first to head out as the day’s second session started under the lights in Bahrain. The Aston Martin racer opened the time charts with a 1:33.624, which would’ve seen him classified P4 in FP1, as the track is much cooler and faster now.
As he headed out Charles Leclerc reported back that his clutch felt strange, an issue he apparently also flagged at the start of FP1 but despite that he went to the top of the times with a 1:31.843.
There was a close call between Oscar Piastri and Lance Stroll in the opening ten minutes when the McLaren rookie was attempting to overtake Yuki Tsunoda but had to slam on the brakes at T1 as Stroll had just emerged from the pitlane and was moving very slowly.
After the first fifteen minutes Leclerc’s earlier time was still the fastest while his teammate Carlos Sazin, was only 0.113 seconds behind in P2, while Lewis Hamilton had just jumped into P3 with a 1:32.272. Two minutes later and the track was completely silent as all cars had returned to the pits to get ready for their next runs.
Williams’ rookie, Logan Sargeant was the first to head back out but it was Stroll who caught everyone’s attention a few minutes later when he put in a 1:31.450 to go nearly four tenths quicker than Leclerc. The track had dramatically improved and there were faster laps flying in from every driver, but it was Fernando Alonso who was the first into the 1:30s with a 1:30.907.
After the flurry of fast laps the longer runs started, with drivers seeing how the soft and medium compounds cope with the track conditions and how consistent a lap time can be set over the course of a run.
Stroll’s wrist did seem to be causing some issues for him, he was seen taking his right hand off the wheel and clenching it while on the straights, taking his hand off the wheel grip and pushing it to turn into a corner so that his wrist would stay straighter, and also telling his team he wasn’t able to take the line the team recommended through a corner due to his hands.
Alonso’s time stood for the remainder of the session and showed that the pace Aston Martin showed in testing does seem to be real. Verstappen’s 1:31.076 saw him into P2 just two thousandths of a second faster than Sergio Perez, who topped FP1. Leclerc ended the day in P4 with returning driver, Nico Hulkenberg, putting his Haas into P5.
Stroll took P6, 0.543 seconds off Alonso’s pace while Pierre Gasly’s pink liveried Alpine was P7. Hamilton’s 1:31.543 saw him end the day in P8 ahead of Lando Norris and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.