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

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.