Lewis Hamilton showed no sign of easing up after securing his record-equalling seventh drivers championship when he completed a practice ‘double top’ for Mercedes in Bahrain on Friday. The 35-year-old Briton, who was fastest in the morning’s opening practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix, outpaced his rivals to top the times again in the afternoon’s twice red-flagged second session. Hamilton clocked a late best lap in one minute and 28.971 seconds at the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir, outpacing nearest rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of Sergio Perez of Racing Point, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri.
Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren ahead of Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point, Daniil Kvyat in the second Alpha Tauri and the luckless Alex Albon, who is fighting to keep his Red Bull seat, but who crashed heavily and wrecked his car.
After occasional light drizzle during opening practice in the morning, the floodlit second session was run in very warm and dry conditions with several drivers, including Hamilton, testing tyres for Pirelli,
Sainz was soon in the 1:30s to top the times followed by Raikkonen and then Verstappen, who was amusing himself with some droll messages to the Red Bull pit-wall.
“Who’s that in front of me?” he asked. “He’s drifting very nicely.”
There was no answer to broadcast, but the drifting ‘black arrow’ was being driven by Hamilton, slithering around on worn tyres.
This light-hearted banter was soon abruptly interrupted when Albon crashed heavily at the final corner, Turn 14, causing the session to be red-flagged.
The London-born Thai driver ran wide and appeared to have no grip as his Red Bull car bounced across a dusty gravel trap before squirting into the barriers.
The right side of the car was damaged severely with both wheels smashed and held only by safety tethers. It seemed he might also have damaged the chassis and gearbox, thus handing his team a possible repair bill of more than 600,000 euros.
For Albon, it was a confidence-shattering accident as he bids to retain his seat for next season having been told by the team to ‘raise his game’ in the season-closing races.
The session resumed after 12 minutes, but was halted again, almost immediately, as a dog ran out and across the track. The red flags came out again.
“If I’d known we were allowed dogs, I’d have brought mine,” said Vettel on team radio, capturing something of the end-of-term mood, before the action re-started.
With 12 minutes remaining, Hamilton regained top spot for the session with a lap in 1:28.971, a burst of speed that endorsed his competitive nature
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