Alonso impresses on return as Mercedes’ woes continue - F1 Testing 2021
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Daniel Riccardo once again topped the timesheets in the morning session of Day 2 of F1 Pre-Season Testing.

The McLaren driver set the benchmark time of 1:32:215, relatively early on in the session and although it could not be bettered, the rest of the morning runners were not far behind.

Fernando Alonso on his return to the sport and Sergio Perez, in his first drive with Red Bull, finished second and third respectively. Youngsters Nicholas Latifi of Williams and Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri impressed by rounding out the top five. Both were within half-a-second of the Australian.

Return Of The King?

While Ricciardo topped the session, the real story of the day was Fernando Alonso. Three years after ‘retiring’, the two-time world champion has returned to Formula 1 with Alpine. But there were fears he wouldn’t make the grid at all.

The Spaniard broke his jaw in a cycling accident last month and he revealed last night that he will race with two titanium plates in his jaw for the rest of the year. This did not seem to hamper him one bit though, as he finished just a tenth behind Ricciardo. F1 testing is not always the most reliable of indicators as to who has the best car. However, with teammate Esteban Ocon also looking incredibly quick in yesterday’s test, the Alpine team may well be the dark horses this season.

More trouble for Mercedes

After reliability and performance issues on Day 1, Mercedes were hoping to make up on lost time with a strong running today. Unfortunately for the reigning world champions, their problems persisted. Sir Lewis Hamilton struggled to find his groove, finishing the session eighth, some 1.184 seconds off the pace. Worse still, at the half-way point of the session, he spun off at Turn 13 and beached his W12 in gravel, bringing out the Red Flag.

After a faulty gearbox restricted Valtteri Bottas to just six laps yesterday, there was further concern after Sebastian Vettel’s Mercedes-powered Aston Martin also came to a halt with gearbox-related issues. Whether these issues are related remains to be seen, but two reliability problems in two days will surely cause some unease in the Mercedes garage, not to mention the four other teams that use the German manufacture’s engines.

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Desert conditions test drivers

While conditions in the session were far better than Day 1’s afternoon test, where a sandstorm engulfed the track, drivers were still required to take extra caution, with the strong winds and rogue sand resulting in a severe lack of grip on the Bahrain International Circuit.

Just before Hamilton’s off, Carlos Sainz lost the rear-end of his Ferrari in the middle sector, while Latifi completely destroyed his front tyres after a dramatic spin.

Nikita Mazepin also felt the desert heat, having been blocked not once but twice while trying to set a hot lap. The Russian can take some comfort however after his Haas completed the most laps of any one (75).

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Full Results:

  1. Daniel Ricciardo 1:32.215 - 52 Laps
  2. Fernando Alonso +0.124 - 59 Laps
  3. Sergio Perez +0.263 - 39 Laps
  4. Nicholas Latifi +0.326 - 47 Laps
  5. Yuki Tsunoda +0.469 - 57 Laps
  6. Carlos Sainz +0.857 - 56 Laps
  7. Nikita Mazepin +0.886 - 75 Laps
  8. Lewis Hamilton +1.184 - 58 Laps
  9. Antonio Giovinazzi +3.803 - 73 Laps
  10. Sebastian Vettel +6.634 - 9 Laps