Verstappen was second in practice but the pace of the Red Bull on longer runs appears to be the class of the fieldFernando Alonso pipped pre-season favorites Red Bull to set the pace in practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Aston Martin driver was 0.169 seconds quicker than world champion Max Verstappen, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez third fastest. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth and Lewis Hamilton the fastest Mercedes in eighth, 0.636secs off the pace. Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas, Lance Stroll’s Aston Gasine Martin and Alperp filled the gaps ahead of Hamilton. McLaren’s Lando Norris was ninth fastest ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu. Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell was down in 13th and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz 14th after making an error on his On fastest lap. The race-simulation times later in the session, when teams run on heavy tanks to judge long-run pace, Verstappen was fastest, but again Alonso appeared competitive – running at the same pace a s the Dutchman and quicker than Perez. The caveat is that although the race runs are usually a better approximation of competitiveness than the one-lap pace, fuel loads are still uncertain to a degree. Leclerc was the fastest Ferrari driver on race pace, but nearly a second a lap slower than Verstappen, and the Mercedes drivers slower again, and also behind Gasly and and Norris. The session was relatively incident-free. McLaren’s rookie driver Oscar Piastri had a big lock-up when he saw Stroll’s Aston Martin in front of him late at the first corner, and Alonso abandoned a race run on the medium tire when he locked up entering Turn 10. The soft tire was the preferred tire for all drivers on the race runs, suggesting it will be used by most for the start of the race.