Fernando Alonso believes he is “in the leading group”

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Three-time Bahrain Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso is confident that Ferrari are in the running for victory this weekend after a good performance in practice.

The Italian team finished P1 and P2 in Free Practice 1 in Sakhir, and Alonso continued his good form by finishing 4th in the second session. The Spanish driver, who won last week’s Chinese Grand Prix, was pleased with his performance as he looks to win back-to-back races for the first time since the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.

“It was a positive day and we are reasonably pleased with how the car behaved,” Alonso said in a team statement. “We had no major problems and more importantly, we didn’t have to make any radical changes to the F138 to adapt it to this track and its long straights and slow corners, characteristics which I like a lot and usually produce a great show in the race.”

Alonso believes that he is well placed for qualifying on Saturday, with Lotus, Red Bull and Mercedes also looking strong.

“The initial feelings are good and I think we can be up in the leading group tomorrow, a group that is all within the same two, maximum three tenths.”

The team will make a decision about the car upgrades brought to Bahrain on Saturday.

“We have not yet decided if we will use the aero updates we tried in the morning. It is not yet completely clear how they worked and in the afternoon, we concentrated on comparing the two tire compounds we have for this race.”

Felipe Massa finished on top in FP1, but he could only finish 6th in FP2, yet the Brazilian driver’s good record in Bahrain (two wins) will certainly put him in the running to support and possibly challenge Alonso on Sunday.

MORE: Watch FP2, qualifying and the Bahrain Grand Prix online or on your phone or tablet

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 2 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 2 of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires saw two series hit the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course for pre-season testing. The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda both got their turns on Saturday after the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires took to the 1.5-mile oval on Friday.

Both series got in two sessions apiece during the day. Below are quick reports for Pro Mazda and USF2000.

Pro Mazda: Thompson, Askew Lead Opening Sessions

A pair of USF2000 graduates led the two sessions for Pro Mazda. In Session 1, it was Parker Thompson and Exclusive Autosport leading the way, while Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew, last year’s USF2000 champion, led the way in Session 2. Times from both sessions are below.

Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, last year’s runnerup in the USF2000 championship, also put in a strong showing, ending up second in Session 2.

This was also the first official session for the brand new Tatuus PM-18, and it’s first official outing showed off quite a bit of speed. Lap times were reportedly upwards of four seconds a lap faster than the previous Elan Pro Mazda chassis.

USF2000: Pabst Racing, Cape Motosports Lead the Way

The teams that battled for last year’s USF2000 crown, Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing, traded early blows during Saturday testing, with each team leading a session.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh led the way in Session 1, with four Pabst cars in the top five, while Kyle Kirkwood led Session 2 for Cape. Times from both sessions are below.

However, it should be noted that DEForce Racing’s Kory Enders spent most of Session 2 at the top of the speed charts before getting pushed down to third late in the running. With the top three finishers from last year’s USF2000 championship all moving on to Pro Mazda (Askew, VeeKay, and Thompson), this USF2000 season could be anyone’s for the taking.

Of note, Keith Donegan, who signed with ArmsUp Motorsports after winning the $200K scholarship from Mazda Motorsports in November’s Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, was 16th in Session 1, but did not turn laps in Session 2.

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