Sainz ups the pace on day two of F1’s Bahrain test

Carlos Sainz put Ferrari on top at the end of a second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain where the pace notably increased.

After Max Verstappen’s strong start on Wednesday, it was Ferrari that upped the ante a little when Sainz used the C4 compound tire – one step softer than will be available during the race weekend itself – to post a 1m29.921s in the afternoon session. Sainz completed 84 laps despite only taking over from Charles Leclerc an hour into the second part of the day, and was three quarters of a second clear of Sergio Perez.

Perez did use the C3 tire for his best lap on his way to completing the most mileage of a single driver with 129 laps, but Pirelli estimates the performance gap to be around the half-second mark in Bahrain.


Verstappen did not drive in the end due to changes to the schedule after a drain cover failure ended the morning session earlier than planned. While Ferrari opted to give Leclerc an extra hour after the early lunch break, Red Bull kept Perez in the car for the entire day, with a plan to split the drivers on Friday.

The interruption came when a drain cover on the entry curb at Turn 11 was pulled up, and Lewis Hamilton then hit it with his right-hand wheels. That damaged the hub and required a replacement, but also led to the cover splitting in two and part of it coming to rest on the racing line.

While Sainz – watching trackside – was trying to warn nearby marshals that a yellow flag was needed, his teammate Leclerc hit the remaining debris and damaged his floor, and a red flag was soon brought out so the track could be inspected. In the end, 40 minutes of running were lost and the lunch break was brought forward by an hour. 

Sainz’s headline lap time was 2.5 seconds quicker than Verstappen managed on the opening day, with Perez, Hamilton in third (1m31.066s) and Lando Norris in fourth (1m31.256s) all going faster than the defending champion as well.

Those stats do little to dispel the feeling that Red Bull has a clear advantage though, with George Russell stating he sees it as the “definite favorite” heading into the opening race at this stage, and Sainz telling RACER he also feels the pecking order at the front is largely similar to 2023. The only moment of potential concern came when Perez had to crawl back to the pits with an unspecified problem, but after having returned to the garage he was quickly sent back out again. 

Although fourth-quickest, McLaren had a challenging day with reliability issues that led to Norris having to abort a race simulation. The team needed to investigate a fuel system problem, but was at least able to get Norris back out on track in the latter stages.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Visa Cash App RB but used the C4 tire as well to all but match Verstappen’s time from day one, ahead of Leclerc, whose early morning lap hinted at the increased pace that was going to be seen as the teams start to dial in their new machinery.

Perez and Hamilton both individually broke the 100-lap barrier, as did Logan Sargeant for Williams on what was his final running of pre-season. After splitting running on Wednesday, Williams is the only team that has opted to have just one driver in the car on the final day, with Alex Albon completing those duties and Sargeant’s 117 laps marking a good improvement from the team’s reliability concerns yesterday.

Story originally appeared on Racer