Valtteri Bottas leads Day 2 of F1 testing; Lewis Hamilton in 15th after spin into gravel

F1 Valtteri Bottas testing
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — It was finally back to business as usual for Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes on the second day of preseason F1 testing on Saturday with the Formula One team overcoming its struggles and topping the leaderboard.

Bottas found speed late in the session to finish 0.124 seconds ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and 0.171 ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth fastest with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who did 124 laps, placing fifth.

The outcome was a welcome relief for Mercedes after seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton lost the rear of his car and went off into the gravel in the morning, bringing out a red flag as the session was briefly halted.

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The British driver ended the day with 58 laps completed, the same tally as Bottas, but he was 15th overall.

Mercedes had encountered unfamiliar reliability problems on Friday, with Bottas completing just six laps because of a gearbox problem and Hamilton in the unusual position of struggling to be competitive.

Charles Leclerc was sixth for Ferrari on Saturday while Sergio Perez was eighth for Red Bull, which had topped Friday’s first day through Max Verstappen.

F1 Valtteri Bottas testing
Scuderia AlphaTauri team members service the car of Pierre Gasly during day two of F1 testing at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images).

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who clocked the fastest time on Saturday morning, fell down to ninth as the late-afternoon light faded.

Veteran Fernando Alonso, who has replaced Ricciardo at Alpine, looked comfortable on his return to F1 and was 10th quickest, completing 127 laps for the rebranded team formerly called Renault.

“We followed the program that was planned so that is good,” Alonso said. “But we need to sit down now and analyze everything. The car did feel good, but I think we still need to understand the characteristics of the new aero package a bit better.”

F1 Valtteri Bottas testing
Fernando Alonso tests the Alpine A521 Renault at Bahrain International Circuit (Clive Mason/Getty Images).

The two-time F1 champion is driving all season with metal plates in his jaw after fracturing his upper jaw following a cycling accident last month.

“I don’t expect any issues, honestly,” the 39-year-old Spaniard said. “I will have to remove two titanium plates in the upper jaw at the end of the season.”

Ferrari newcomer Carlos Sainz Jr., who joined from McLaren, spun in the afternoon, adding to his two spins on Friday. He finished in 13th place, sandwiched between Haas rookies Michael Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel, who had a difficult final season with Ferrari last year, managed just six laps before a gearbox problem sent him back to the team garage.

The four-time F1 champion, whose last title was eight years ago with Red Bull, mustered just four more laps afterward and ended the day in a lowly 16th.

There is a third and final testing day on Sunday.

The season will start with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same Sakhir track on March 28. The scheduled first race of the season in Australia was postponed to November because of travel restrictions.

Testing has been moved from its traditional home in Spain and cut from the usual six days to three as F1 and the teams try to cut costs amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

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With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III