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Russell left languishing as Verstappen lays down qualifying marker

Russell left languishing as Verstappen lays down qualifying marker

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Russell left languishing as Verstappen lays down qualifying marker

Russell left languishing as Verstappen lays down qualifying marker

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen suggested he is a serious threat for pole position for the Sakhir Grand Prix after leading the way in final practice.

After Mercedes' George Russell topped the timesheet at the end of both sessions on Friday, the Briton struggled in the final hour-long run around the outer track at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Verstappen came within a fraction of breaking through the 54-second barrier, with the Dutch driver posting a time of 54.064 seconds to finish two-tenths clear of Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn finally rediscovered his form after playing second fiddle to new team-mate Russell on Friday as the Briton stepped in as a replacement for Covid-stricken Lewis Hamilton.

Russell, who had previously never been any higher than 11th across any practice session during his 36 grands prix with Williams, was sensational across the two 90-minute runs.

In contrast, Bottas endured a tough day as he broke the floor on his McLaren in FP1, while he twice exceeded track limits on his qualifying simulation runs in FP2, leaving him down in 11th and with his best time set on the hard compound.

Needing to lay down a marker to Russell ahead of qualifying, Bottas at least managed to finish four-tenths-of-a-second quicker than Russell who was a lowly seventh.

Bottas' time could have been considerably faster but for running very wide at the final corner.

As for Russell, the 22-year-old's time of 54.664s was a tenth of a second slower than his leading time from Friday, leaving him with work to do if he is to maintain his record of never being beaten by a team-mate in qualifying.

In between the Mercedes duo were AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly in an exceptional third ahead of Renault's Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris in his McLaren and Alex Albon for Red Bull.

Racing Point duo Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were eighth and ninth quickest, with McLaren's Carlos Sainz completing the top 10, 0.656s off the pace.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who suffered a drivershaft failure that confined him to the garage for most of FP2, was 13th, 0.790s down and three-thousandths of a second ahead of Renault's Daniel Ricciardo.

As for Sebastian Vettel, who spun twice during a poor FP2, his session finished early due to Ferrari opting for a power unit change as a precautionary measure, leaving the four-time champion down in 15th.

Pietro Fittipaldi, standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean at Haas following the Frenchman's horrific accident in Sunday's Bahrain GP, was 19th.

For his debut, however, the Brazilian has received a penalty requiring him to start at the back of the grid due to his VF-20 requiring a new control electronics and energy store in the wake of Grosjean's crash.

Both components are the third of the season when only two are allowed, with FIA regulations dictating that no matter the driver, penalties will be awarded as the issues relate to the car.

Jack Aitken, Russell's replacement at Williams, was slowest, 1.606s adrift.

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