Magnussen leads Day 2 in Bahrain; Renault teams make strides

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A Mercedes-powered car led the way again in the second day of Formula One testing in Bahrain, and some of the teams that had issues on Wednesday got them, in part, sorted on Thursday.

Kevin Magnussen’s run of form this winter continued; the young Dane dropped the bar on times by a full two seconds compared to Wednesday’s best. Another run on Pirelli’s soft tires saw Magnussen’s McLaren MP4-29 down to 1:34.910.

Nico Hulkenberg, Wednesday’s pace-setter, improved his time by a few tenths in the Force India-Mercedes to 1:36.445, while Fernando Alonso found more than a second in his Ferrari at 1:36.516.

Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams fixed some of their issues on Thursday. Despite playing catch-up, Red Bull got by far its best day of the winter in on Thursday with Sebastian Vettel completing 59 laps. The sister Toro Rosso team, with Jean-Eric Vergne in for the first time this week, got 58 in.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas though was the lap-pounder of the day, with the team’s fuel system gremlins of Wednesday sent to the rear view mirror. The young Finn clocked in a day-high 116 laps and was within 2.4 seconds of the leading Mercedes-powered runners.

As has been the case in other tests, Mercedes teams still led the combined total lap chart, but all three manufacturers picked up on where they were on Wednesday (Mercedes 238, Ferrari 146, Renault 95). Here’s Thursday’s breakdown:

  • Mercedes: 306 (Magnussen 46, Hulkenberg 59, Nico Rosberg 85, Bottas 116)
  • Renault: 201 (Kamui Kobayashi 66, Vettel 59, Vergne 58, Romain Grosjean 18)
  • Ferrari: 169 (Alonso 97, Esteban Gutierrez 55, Max Chilton 17)

Renault had by far it’s most running overall, even despite installation issues preventing Lotus’ Romain Grosjean from doing much of anything. Pace runs will come later for the French manufacturer.

And here’s Thursday’s times:

1. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m34.910s, 46 Laps
2. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India-Mercedes, 1m36.445s, 59
3. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1m36.516s, 97
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m36.965s, 85
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, 1m37.328s, 116
6. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault, 1m39.855s, 66
7. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault, 1m40.340s, 59
8. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m40.609s, 58
9. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m40.717s, 55
10. Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Renault, 1m41.670s, 18
11. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m42.511s, 17

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”