Sakhir Grand Prix: Mercedes substitute George Russell sets the tone in Friday practice sessions

Follow the third practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday on the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 13:30 GMT

Mercedes’ George Russell completed a clean sweep of Friday’s two practice sessions at the Sakhir Grand Prix by replacing Lewis Hamilton.

Russell beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.128 seconds with Valtteri Bottas’ second Mercedes 11th.

The Finn had the fastest lap of the session, just under 0.2 seconds faster than Russell, but saw the time cut out for going over the limits of the track.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez finished third ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon.

It was a very accomplished performance by Russell, 22, in a car he hadn’t driven before after being written following Hamilton’s positive coronavirus test.

Russell described the Sakhir circuit – a shortened version of the traditional setup used for the Bahrain Grand Prix last week – as “tricky” and “not easy”.

“It’s going to be very tight in qualifying and in the race it’s going to be carnage,” he added.

“I am learning so much at every turn. Lap times are small but misleading and are not a true representation of rhythm. FP2 was not a good session for me, I struggled especially with the high fuel and it will be key on Sunday, there is still a lot of work to do to be comfortable in the car and with the settings. ”

At 6ft 1, Russell is 14cm taller than Hamilton and revealed on Thursday that it was a “tight fit” to get him into the car. He also had to wear a smaller size riding boots.

“I’m pretty beaten up and bruised,” he said. “We’ve been through what needs to change and it’s not an instant’s job, to change seats here and there. We are working hard to improve this for Sunday.

“I’m doing my best to be as prepared as possible, but jumping in the car on two days’ notice is tough.

“Just because I’m the fastest today doesn’t mean I’ll be there tomorrow. I’m probably a good tenth and a half behind Valtteri on the low fuel level and Verstappen was amazingly quick on the long runs. “

Bottas seemed to have a bit of pace on the Briton, but was visibly more comfortable, especially through the bumpy mid-section of the new, shorter layout of the Bahrain F1 track which is used for the first time this weekend. end.

It was in this sector that Bottas made his mistake, slipping slightly in the eighth corner and excluding his time.

Russell also set the tone in the first session, when Bottas damaged his car early while passing over a curb, also at turn eight.

On the soft tire race pace, Russell seemed to suffer from more tire degradation, but the two were closely related on the hard tire which will likely be favored in the race.

Bottas also had two slight off-track moments on his race tracks, slipping widely in turns five and six.

“It was a pretty tough day,” Bottas said. “In the first session, the first run, I broke the ground going over the curbs on turn eight.

“Practice two went well, I didn’t do any laps on the soft tire, I had a decent U-turn, but it was removed for the limits of the track. The long runs were fairly consistent but Red Bull on the medium tire seemed pretty quick. “

Alexander Albon of Red Bull was fifth, ahead of Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri, second in Racing Point of Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri and Carlos Sainz of McLaren.

It was a workout to forget for Vettel, who struggled to deal with issues throughout

Ferrari has had a desperate session. Sebastian Vettel completed two laps and only managed the 16th fastest time, while Charles Leclerc suffered a driveshaft failure after crossing a curb at the exit of turn eight at the start of the session and failed. could not come out. He was the last one without setting a time.

New F1 boys Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken finished 18th and 19th respectively for Haas and Williams.

Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi who replaces Romain Grosjean following the Frenchman’s meteoric fall on this track last Sunday, was just over three tenths slower than his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Anglo-Korean driver Aitken had his chance at Williams after Russell’s switch to Mercedes. The 25-year-old finished just under half a second slower than his teammate Nicholas Latifi.

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