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Ricciardo shines as Mercedes roar back

Valtteri Bottas has lifted Mercedes back to the top of the testing timesheets in Bahrain in a return to normal service for the unsettled Formula One champions after a difficult opening day.

Australia’s Daniel Riccardo also had a second good day at the wheel of his new McLaren on Saturday as he topped the time charts in the morning session just as he did on Friday.

The Finn Bottas had managed only six laps on Friday due to a gearbox problem in the morning, and seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton sent the car backwards into the gravel on Saturday morning.

The situation was a far cry from recent years of Mercedes dominating pre-season testing.

But Bottas got the team back on track with 58 laps of the Sakhir circuit in Saturday’s second stint, the same amount that Hamilton did in the morning, with a fastest lap of one minute 30.289 seconds on the softest and quickest tyres.

Mercedes still remained last when it came to laps completed, with both drivers having a half-day each remaining to them.

“It’s day two of testing, so we’re just focused on doing our job,” said Hamilton, who had struggled through a sandstorm on Friday.

“There’s no point in getting worried just yet, everyone’s focusing on their programmes and that’s what we’re doing.”

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was second fastest, 0.124 slower, with Canadian Lance Stroll third for Aston Martin and Lando Norris fourth for McLaren.

In the morning, Ricciardo had been fastest for McLaren, clocking one minute 32.215 seconds with veteran Fernando Alonso second for Alpine in his F1 return on 1:32.339.

Alonso, who has replaced Ricciardo at the Renault team now renamed as Alpine, began his comeback in impressive fashion and ended the day with 128 laps under his belt.

Mexican Sergio Perez, taking over the Red Bull from Max Verstappen who drove on Friday, was third quickest in the morning but had a scare in the afternoon when his car’s engine cover flew off on the main straight.

Hamilton’s excursion into the gravel on a windy morning halted the session for some 15 minutes.

The car was transported back to the pitlane, shrouded in a black sheet, to be cleared of gravel before he returned for the final hour before lunch.

Other drivers, including Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, also went off or had spins in challenging conditions with the wind direction shifting.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel sat out most of the first session due to a gearbox issue and did only nine laps.

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