Max Verstappen completed a practice double ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix to add further fuel to the belief Red Bull will be the team to beat this weekend.
Whilst practice times generally have to be taken with a pinch of salt, the fact Red Bull and Verstappen have quickly followed up their leading times from testing with further confirmation of the RB16B's pace in practice further suggests Mercedes has its work cut out in qualifying and for the race.
In FP2, Verstappen improved on his first practice time by half-a-second with a lap of one minute 30.847secs, finishing just 0.095s ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris as the MCL35M also carried on its form from testing.
As for Hamilton, while the W12 at least appeared more planted compared to its rear-end issues in testing, the seven-time champion finished 0.235s adrift of Verstappen, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz fractionally behind the Briton.
Compared to FP1, when the track and air temperatures were 46.5 and a sweltering 36 degrees centigrade respectively, the conditions were far more representative for the second session given the cooler evening climes of 32.6 and 28.5.
After initial running on the medium-compound tyres, all the drivers soon switched over to the soft to conduct early qualifying simulation runs, albeit still comfortably shy of pushing to the limit.
For comparison, Verstappen's leading time was just under two seconds off Hamilton's best in second practice ahead of last year's Bahrain Grand Prix just four months ago.
That is as a result of the aerodynamic downforce cuts implemented under the new regulations which the engineers within each team are still trying to claw back.
That is still definitely the case at Mercedes given its low-rake philosophy of car in contrast to the high-rake design at Red Bull.
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to settle for fifth fastest, 0.371s adrift, with new McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo in close attendance followed by an impressive time from AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda who was 0.447s off the pace.
After running without a hitch or a tyre out of place for a staggering 161 laps on the final day of pre-season testing in his Alfa Romeo, Kimi Raikkonen's second session initially lasted just six laps before he lost the rear of his car coming out of turn two.
That resulted in the veteran careering across the gravel and hitting a barrier nose first, with the impact spinning him around that culminated in the rear also making contact.
Raikkonen at least made it back on track and wound up 16th, a second down, and ahead of Williams' George Russell and Mick Schumacher for Haas, with respective team-mates Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin at the rear, with the Russian 2.602s down.
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