Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were closely matched during their supersoft long runs in second Bahrain practice, with a difference of only three tenths between their average times.
After a fairly irrelevant FP1, Friday’s second practice saw the top runners from F1’s three top outfits separated by just 0.066s at the top of the timesheets.
The trio also showed similar place on long runs, particularly on the supersoft compound. Lewis Hamilton averaged a time of 1m36.391s over a 9-lap stint, with Daniel Ricciardo just two tenths adrift - although the Australia’s stint was marginally shorter.
Kimi Raikkonen’s average time was three tenths off Hamilton's, but the Finn’s supersoft run lasted a full 14 laps (plus the in-lap).
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas tested the full potential of Pirelli’s softest available compound in Bahrain, completing a grand total of 17 laps for an average time of 1m37.240s.
Soft tyre runs
On the soft compound, Mercedes’ appeared to have an advantage with Hamilton six tenths quicker than Ricciardo on long runs.
Ferrari again preferred to do a longer stint, with Sebastian Vettel clocking an average time of 1m37.157s after completing 14 laps.
Tyre degradation was quite evident around the Bahrain International Circuit, with drivers recording a major drop-off in lap times after a set number of laps. This may incline some teams to do a two-stop strategy, although cooler temperatures on Sunday may reduce concerns of excessive tyre wear.
Hamilton 1:36.666 11 laps
Ricciardo 1:36.866 9 laps
Raikkonen 1:36.938 13 laps
Bottas 1:37.240 17 laps
Hamilton 1:36.391 9 laps
Ricciardo 1:36.988 8 laps
Vettel 1:37.157 14 laps
by Rachit Thukral