Max Verstappen tops 2nd practice at Bahrain GP; Lewis Hamilton struggling for pace

F1 Hamilton Verstappen Bahrain
Clive Mason/Getty Images

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Formula One champion Max Verstappen quickly got back to business for Red Bull by leading the second and practice sessions at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, where F1 rival Lewis Hamilton continued to struggle.

Hamilton was only sixth fastest in the final practice. Last year’s title runner-up has a record 103 F1 wins yet totally ruled out opening the season with No. 104 on Sunday.

“As you can see we’re a long way off,” said Hamilton, who had been worried during preaseason testing about his lack of pace. “I’m just realistic, we’re not going to be in the race for a win here. If you look at the Red Bulls, they’re a long way ahead.”

Hamilton’s teammate, George Russell, fared a bit better, placing fourth in the second session, but said that was a one-off lap pace and thinks it will be a case of “damage limitation” for Mercedes this weekend.

“The pace just is not there at all at the moment. We’re both struggling and we’re both a long way off,” the British driver said. “From our side we’re not overly happy with where we are.”

Red Bull and resurgent Ferrari, which last won the drivers’ title in 2007, must be delighted.

Although Verstappen was fifth in first practice earlier Friday, the Dutchman improved to finish ahead of Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.

“We had quite a straightforward and smooth day so I’m pretty happy,” said Verstappen, who was fastest in all preseason testing. “We tried a few things on the car in each session and they seemed to work well.”

Verstappen’s time put him a narrow .09 seconds ahead of Leclerc and .58 clear of Sainz on an encouraging day for Ferrari.

“Ferrari are pushing hard and are very close, so that’s exciting,” said Verstappen, who might have a new rival.

Hamilton was a distant 1.2 seconds behind Verstappen’s leading mark on a disappointing day when the seven-time F1 champion placed seventh in the first practice.

“We’ve had small problems in the past compared to this year. We’re faced with much, much bigger problems,” Hamilton said. “Everything we do to try and fix it doesn’t really change that. It appears that it’s going to be a more longer-term fix, so nothing in the short term.”

There is a third and final practice on Saturday ahead of qualifying in cooler evening conditions at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

Friday’s first practice was led by AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, with Leclerc and Sainz also second and third as Ferrari’s encouraging performance from preseason testing continued.

Russell was fourth in his first practice since replacing Valtteri Bottas on the team. Hamilton was a considerable .75 back from Gasly’s time, and the gap to the leader only grew bigger in the second session.

This season has seen new regulations designed to level the playing field by reducing the advantage of the traditional big teams.

In a bid to increase fairer competition, budgets were cut from $145 million (132 million euros) to $140 million (127 million euros) for each team and will drop to $135 million (123 million euros) in 2023.

The cars are heavier and there has also been a problem with what is known in F1 as “porpoising” – an aerodynamic issue where cars hop and bounce on the track.

Mercedes has been affected by this.

“The braking is something we can fix so it’s not a concern,” Hamilton said. “It’s more the balance and this bouncing that we have, and a loss of downforce that we do seem to have compared to others.”

McLaren uses Mercedes engines and seems to have similar issues to resolve. British driver Lando Norris was 16th in the first practice and 11th in the second practice as he slid around.

McLaren had five podiums last season – four for Norris and a win for Daniel Ricciardo – while back-marker Haas did not even score a point.

But both of the Haas cars – which use Ferrari engines – were ahead of McLaren in the second practice, with Mick Schumacher eighth and Kevin Magnussen 10th.

Saturday’s Supercross Round 5 in Houston: How to watch, start times, streaming info


The championship race has tightened up as the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series heads to NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, for Round 5 of the 2023 season.

With his 450 victory in the Anaheim Triple Crown, Chase Sexton has moved within four points of two-time and defending series champion Eli Tomac.

Jason Anderson is coming off a second place in Anaheim after crashing out of the first two rounds while racing in the top five. Ken Roczen earned his first podium last week since the 2022 season opener and the first for Suzuki since Chad Reed at Detroit in 2019.

Here are the pertinent details for watching Round 5 of the 2023 Supercross schedule at NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023:

(All times are ET)

BROADCAST/STREAMING SCHEDULE: TV coverage of Round 5 will begin Saturday at 8 p.m. ET streaming on Peacock and will re-air Monday, Feb. 6 at 1 a.m. on CNBC. The Race Day Live show (including qualifying) will begin on Peacock at 2:30 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports will have exclusive live coverage of races, qualifiers and heats for the record 31 events in SuperMotocross. The main events will be presented on Peacock, NBC, USA Network, CNBC, and NBC Sports digital platforms.

Peacock will become the home of the SuperMotocross World Championship series in 2023 with live coverage of all races, qualifying, and heats from January to October. There will be 23 races livestreamed exclusively on Peacock, including a SuperMotocross World Championship Playoff event. The platform also will provide on-demand replays of every race.

ENTRY LISTS: 450 division l 250 division

EVENT SCHEDULE (all times ET):

Here are the start times for Saturday, according to the Monster Energy Supercross schedule from the AMA:

2:05-2:15 p.m.: 250SX Group C Qualifying 1
2:20-2:30 p.m.: 250SX Group B Qualifying 1
2:35-2:45 p.m.: 250SX Group A Qualifying 1
2:50-3 p.m.: 450SX Group A Qualifying 1
3:05-3:15 p.m.: 450SX Group B Qualifying 1
3:20-3:30 p.m.: 450SX Group C Qualifying 1
4:20-4:30 p.m.: 250SX Group C Qualifying 2
4:35-4:45 p.m.: 250SX Group B Qualifying 2
4:50-5 p.m.: 250SX Group A Qualifying 2
5:05-5:15 p.m.: 450SX Group A Qualifying 2
5:20-5:30 p.m.: 450SX Group B Qualifying 2
5:35-5:45 p.m.: 450SX Group C Qualifying 2
8:06 p.m.: 250SX Heat 1
8:20 p.m.: 250SX Heat 2
8:34 p.m.: 450SX Heat 1
8:48 p.m.: 450SX Heat 2
9:22 p.m.: 250SX Last Chance Qualifier
9:33 p.m.: 450SX Last Chance Qualifier
9:53 p.m.: 250SX Main Event
10:27 p.m.: 450SX Main Event


Click here to view the track map


FINAL 2022 STANDINGS: 450 points standings | 250 East points standings250 West points standings


ROUND 1: Eli Tomac opens title defense with victory

ROUND 2: Oakland postponed by storms

ROUND 3: Tomac holds off Cooper Webb again

ROUND 4: Chase Sexton wins Anaheim Triple Crown


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