Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso set the pace in Friday evening’s second practice session ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, beating defending champion Max Verstappen by 0.169 seconds, with Sergio Perez a further 0.002 seconds behind in his Red Bull.

Across two spells of qualifying-style runs, it was the Spaniard who charged to the top of the timesheets by clocking a 1m 30.907s on soft tyres. Behind the pace setter and the Red Bull duo was Charles Leclerc, who set the fourth fastest lap time on the day. The Monegasque driver lapped the Sakhir circuit a whole 0.460 seconds slower than Alonso, which is quite a margin in the world of Formula 1.

Returning driver Niko Hulkenberg may have surprised some by setting the fifth fastest lap time on the day in a Haas, ahead of Alonso’s Aston Martin teammate, Lance Stroll.

Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly was the seventh fastest on the day in his temporarily pink Alpine, ahead of Lewis Hamilton in eighth place. The seven-time world champion left frustrated with his car, while his Mercedes teammate George Russell managed to be 13th fastest on the day.

After a long day in Bahrain, and a scorching fastest lap by Alonso, Red Bull and Ferrari believe that Aston Martin could be a genuine threat this year.

The excitement will only increase, as FP3 will be followed by a Saturday afternoon of qualifying, the first qualifying session of the 2023 season.