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Leclerc leads a recovering Mercedes as testing times tumble

Charles Leclerc reduced the F1 testing benchmark in Bahrain ahead of George Russell, who was making up for lost time in the Mercedes.

Charles Leclerc placed Ferrari at the head of the timing screens by lowering the testing benchmark on the morning of the final pre-season test day. After George Russell set the early pace for a recovering Mercedes team on the fastest C5 tyre, Leclerc appeared to put Mercedes back in their place by delivering a faster lap time on the harder C4 tyre compound. Leclerc's morning lap time of 1:31.024 was over half-a-second faster than the benchmark set by Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu on day two. Russell's best lap of the morning was over four tenths of a second away from the pace of Ferrari. Sergio Perez set the third-fastest time in the Red Bull, who still seemed to avoid using any of the soft-compound tyres, with the Mexican's best lap being set on the C3 tyre, ahead of Alpine's Pierre Gasly. The only red flag of the session came in the opening 15 minutes, when Perez lost what appeared to be a sensor. The session was stopped to remove the debris before resuming.

Felipe Drugovich was given another morning in the Aston Martin, possibly to get him ready for a substitute appearance at the Bahrain GP. The Brazilian has completed a reasonable amount of running so far, registering 21 laps, and finishing ahead of Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg. Oscar Piastri had the most dramatic moment of the morning when he spun on entry to Turn 9 and 10. The McLaren driver had a snap of oversteer under braking for the double-left-hander and spun into the big runoff zone. He recovered without damage and set the 7th fastest time of the morning so far. The Australian followed that up with a harmless, less dramatic off-track moment at Turn 1, but it remains to be seen if the errors were down to his rookie status, or any particular handling difficulties with the MCL60. Alex Albon has the full day in the Williams today, but started his morning on a slower programme which resulted in a lap time over four seconds off the pace. Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries were several seconds off the pace, despite their high lap counts, with both drivers clearly focusing on longer, high fuel runs.

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