Kevin Magnussen fastest during extended F1 testing in his Haas return at Bahrain

Kevin Magnussen Haas testing
Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — More than a year since being dropped from Formula One, Kevin Magnussen topped preseason testing in Bahrain on Friday in his first drive back in the seat for Haas, making the most of an extended session just for the American-owned team.

Magnussen, whom Haas surprisingly recalled a year after firing him when it needed a last-minute replacement for Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, benefited from an extra hour of testing when he had the cooler Sakhir desert track all to himself to set a leading time of 1 minute, 33.207 seconds.

Haas, the worst outfit in F1 last season, was granted four hours of extra testing – one tacked on to Friday’s session and three extra hours scheduled for Saturday – to make up for time the team lost on Wednesday due to the late arrival of freight shipments that left the team without enough time to assemble its car.

“It was so good to be back in a Formula 1 car and so good to be back with the team … I spent the first couple of runs getting back up to speed with a Formula One car, but other than that it felt like I hadn’t been away,” Magnussen said. “I could feel my neck at the end of it though – it kind of `broke’ – but that’s expected. I’ll do another day tomorrow, break it even more, and then hopefully get in a little better shape for next week.”

Magnussen’s best effort bettered the flying lap of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who had finished the group session with the leading time.

Defending champion Max Verstappen ended up with the third-fastest lap, and fierce rival Lewis Hamilton was fifth, just behind Aston Villa’s Lance Stroll.

Daniel Ricciardo missed the day’s testing, and McLaren later confirmed the Australian had tested positive for COVID-19. He will miss Saturday, which is the final day of testing, but the team hopes to have him back when the season begins in Bahrain on March 20.

Hamilton’s new-look Mercedes was for a second day all the rage of the paddock because it sports much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago.

But Hamilton was more concerned about the track conditions that he and the other drivers will face in the season opener. Hamilton said that conditions were difficult with sand blowing in on hot winds. Temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on the Bahrain International Circuit before cooling at sunset.

“The car is definitely different to last week, but (the trouble) is more so the tires working with the temperature are different here,” Hamilton said. “It is bumpy, slippery. There is sand. This morning it was way too hot, and in the afternoon it is just gusty. It is difficult out there… (I’m) not quite happy at the moment.”

Amid a wave of global sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Haas dropped Mazepin from its drivers’ lineup because his father is a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Magnussen, who had driven Haas from 2017 through 2020 before being let go, got behind the wheel after Mick Schumacher drove the morning session.

Nicholas Latifi had a scare when his brakes burst into flames after just 12 laps, sending his Williams spinning to a stop. The Canadian driver grabbed a fire extinguisher and helped stewards put out the fire that engulfed the rear of his car.

“I had to get my firefighter skills out there,” Lafiti said, adding that he put out a fire in his car years ago when driving in Formula Three.

Esteban Ocon had the fastest lap time in the morning session, which was later bettered by other drivers. Things did not go as well after lunch for the Alpine driver when his car came to a stop on the track, bringing out a red flag.