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Perez defeats Hamilton in final Bahrain test day showdown

Sergio Perez rounded off a superb pre-season for Red Bull by smashing the lap time benchmark in the final hours of Bahrain testing, ahead of a resurgent Lewis Hamilton.

Sergio Perez vaulted to the top of the timing sheets on the final day of F1 testing in Bahrain to claim the pre-season accolades for Red Bull. The Mexican rounded off a very strong test for the reigning champions by becoming the only driver to beat last season's Bahrain GP Pole Position time. Equipped with the C4 tyre, Perez's time of 1:30.305 was two tenths faster than the 2022 benchmark, and three tenths clear of the nearest challenger, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton had taken top spot partway through the afternoon's running with a lap on the C5 tyre, but was unable to stop the Red Bull securing P1 with a harder compound tyre. Valtteri Bottas tried to replicate his Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu with a late C5 tyre glory run, and registered the third-fastest time. The team lost value laps with the C43 after a drive problem in the first half of the day, causing one of two red flags. The other red flag was for a broken sensor which fell off Perez's car and onto the track in the opening stages of the day. Bottas was ahead of the two Ferraris, who set incredibly similar lap times on the C4 tyres earlier in the day. Charles Leclerc, who led the morning session, edged Carlos Sainz by 0.012 of a second. There were late C4 tyre attempts for AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who completed the top seven ahead of the second Mercedes of George Russell. The Briton had also attempted laps on the C5 tyre earlier in the day, but the less-representative conditions resulted in him finishing eighth overall.

Alpine discreet, Williams complete high mileage

The Aston Martin duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Drugovich completed the top ten, with the latter being allowed to drive in the morning session, potentially with a view to being ready for a race seat call up, should Lance Stroll not recover in time to race in the season opener. McLaren's Lando Norris did not trouble the faster times, and the Briton completed a comparatively low number of laps in his afternoon of running, with the team seemingly still struggling with a temperamental wheel 'brow'. Pierre Gasly was the faster Alpine in what was a disguised day for the French team. Neither Gasly nor teammate Esteban Ocon attempted any high-performance runs, with the pair focussing on race simulations and finishing the day in P12 and P14. Alex Albon split the two Alpines in what was another high-mileage day for a Williams driver. His day of race simulations resulted in 136 laps around the Bahrain International Circuit. Nico Hulkenberg finished P15 for Haas, ahead of the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri, who had a big off in the first half of the day, but recovered without damage. Nyck de Vries was the furthest away from any flying lap times. The AlphaTauri newcomer was eight seconds off the pace and on a completely different schedule in the morning session.

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