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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton tops Bahrain GP second practice session

Lewis Hamilton raised hope of taking the fight to Red Bull's Max Verstappen at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix after finishing fastest in practice.

The seven-time world champion led a Mercedes one-two under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit, with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso third and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz fourth.

World champion Verstappen finished sixth, nearly half-a-second back for Red Bull.

Verstappen had been regarded as the heavy favourite heading into Saturday's curtain raiser in the Gulf kingdom.

But the Dutch driver bemoaned the handling of his machine in the first running and then failed to match the speed of the Mercedes drivers later in the day.

The Silver Arrows went under the radar at last week's test in Bahrain, but they were quietly optimistic heading into Friday's running – and the second session belonged to the team that once dominated the sport.

Hamilton, who has not won a race for two years, was back at the top of the order as the seven-time world champion enjoyed a two-tenth margin to team-mate George Russell, with Alonso 0.286 seconds off the pace.

Red Bull's preparations for the new season have been overshadowed by claims of "inappropriate behaviour" made against its team principal Christian Horner.

The 50-year-old was cleared to remain in his role on Wednesday following an investigation by the racing team's parent company GmbH.

But the world champions were surprisingly off the pace in both sessions here. With Verstappen appearing to be in trouble, team-mate Sergio Perez was only ninth in the order.

"Everything is s***," yelled Verstappen over the radio during the first session. "Like miles off."

Earlier in the day, Daniel Ricciardo finished fastest.

The Australian – driving for the newly rebranded RB team – saw off Lando Norris by just 0.032secs, with Oscar Piastri third in the other McLaren.

Ricciardo was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2022, but he was handed a lifeline by Red Bull's junior team midway through last season. He finished 11th in the day's concluding running.

Bahrain Grand Prix FP2 times:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.374
2 George Russell Mercedes +0.206
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.286
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.395
5 Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.410
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing +0.477
7 Nico Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team +0.510
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.517
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.739
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing +0.741
11 Alexander Albon Williams +0.959
12 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1.142
13 Logan Sargeant Williams +1.341
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team +1.390
15 Yuki Tsunoda RB +1.507
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1.577
17 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber +1.627
18 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.653
19 Guanyu Zhou Kick Sauber +1.674
20 Lando Norris McLaren +2.234

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