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Verstappen and Leclerc offer qualifying glimpse as Hamilton blighted by issues

Verstappen and Leclerc offer qualifying glimpse as Hamilton blighted by issues

Verstappen and Leclerc offer qualifying glimpse as Hamilton blighted by issues

Verstappen and Leclerc offer qualifying glimpse as Hamilton blighted by issues

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc offered a glimpse into what to expect come the F1 qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix in which Lewis Hamilton appears set to pick up the scraps.

Verstappen was fastest in his Red Bull under the lights at the Bahrain International Circuit, finishing the hour-long session with a time of one minute 31.936secs, just 0.087secs clear of Ferrari's Leclerc, with Carlos Sainz half-a-second further back in third.

The culmination of pre-season testing at this track six days ago saw Red Bull ahead of Ferrari, and nothing appears to have changed over the intervening period, notably for Hamilton and Mercedes.

Hamilton's new team-mate George Russell may have finished fourth quickest but the Briton was six-tenths-of-a-second adrift of Verstappen, similar to testing.

As for Hamilton, he was initially sat in the garage at the start of the session as his team of mechanics completed a number of set-up changes but it appeared to be to no avail as on his first run he bemoaned the fact there was "still a lot of bouncing".

Mercedes has suffered drastically with the porpoising effect prone to the new ground-effect cars built to the wide-sweeping aerodynamic regulations introduced for this year.

Along the start-finish straight, onboard cameras caught Hamilton's head bobbing up and down significantly, despite a new floor fitted to his car for practice, in comparison to Russell who continues to run the spec used in testing.

Hamilton was a lowly ninth on the timesheet, a significant 1.2s behind Verstappen.

At the conclusion of his soft-tyre running, he complained of a "problem with the front brakes - right-front pulling", indicating the team has plenty of work ahead of it ahead of qualifying to even get Hamilton onto the second row, never mind the first.

There was an additional outlier in the conditions.

FP2 always provides a fair indicator as to what to expect in qualifying, and in Bahrain, the second session under the lights is representative of the conditions that will be experienced in qualifying and the race.

But since the sweltering heat of last week's test, even into the early hours of the evening, Bahrain has experienced a shift in weather as gale-force winds and much cooler climes have swept in.

For the second session, temperatures dipped to just 17 degrees Celsius, but with the winds, it was closer to 12 degrees, more akin to Barcelona in pre-season testing.

The weather is due to warm up over the weekend which may aid certain teams, and Mercedes will hope to be one of those.

Between Russell and Hamilton, who were split by six-tenths of a second, was the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas in his Alfa Romeo, Red Bull's Sergio Perez and even Mick Schumacher in his Haas.

Kevin Magnussen, back in F1 following Nikita Mazepin's exit in light of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, completed the top 10 to suggest Haas has shed its back-of-the-grid tag of the last couple of years.

McLaren's Lando Norris was 11th quickest in his McLaren, 1.3s adrift, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo struggling in 18th after missing all of the second pre-season test due to illness and Covid.

One place ahead of Ricciardo was Aston Martin's Nico Hulkenberg, stepping back into an F1 car for the first time in 17 months as a replacement for the additionally Covid-hit Sebastian Vettel.

At the back of the pack were Williams pair Nicholas Latifi and Alex Albon, with the latter almost 2.8s adrift.

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