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Verstappen and Red Bull end F1's pre-season with fastest time

Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen has ended 2022 pre-season testing with the fastest time, after showing imperious pace on the final afternoon in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen has ended his and Red Bull's pre-season testing programme by setting the fastest time of the Bahrain test. With Verstappen having moved to the top of the times halfway through the final afternoon on Saturday, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc usurped him as the teams moved away from the Medium C3 tyres and onto the Soft compounds. Leclerc set a 1:32.415 on the Soft C5 to go to the front, but Verstappen headed out for a full performance run in the final 30 minutes of the session. Also armed with the Soft C5, Verstappen posted an impressive 1:31.973 – almost half a second clear of Leclerc's best on the same compound. This was despite Verstappen spinning at the final corner while attempting to start his initial flying lap. Regrouping on a fresh set of Soft C5s, Verstappen went quicker again in the final 10 minutes. Verstappen clocked a 1:31.720 after finding an extra quarter of a second in the first sector of the lap. His time, almost seven-tenths clear of anyone, went unchallenged up to the chequered flag.

A flurry of action in the final minutes

With Leclerc in second and opting against a similar performance run in the closing minutes, George Russell showed some signs of improvement for Mercedes. Russell climbed into third place, 1.039 seconds away from Verstappen's benchmark – Russell's best being set on the Soft C5 tyre. Mercedes were demoted to fourth with four minutes remaining, as Alpine's Fernando Alonso used the Soft C4 tyre to slot into third. Valtteri Bottas finished an impressive fifth for Alfa Romeo. The Finn set a 1:32.985 on the Medium C3 tyre with 40 minutes remaining, but immediately suffered an apparent gearbox issue that forced him to pull over and stop. Bottas' incident triggered a brief red flag stoppage, and also marked the end of his and Alfa Romeo's test.

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