Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu was the surprise pacesetter on the second day of Formula 1’s sole pre-season test in Bahrain while George Russell’s Mercedes broke down on track.
Zhou used a set of the softest compound of tyres (C5) to jump to the top of the leaderboard in the final hour in his Sauber-run C43.
He displaced day one pacesetter and long-time day two benchmark-holder Max Verstappen by just 0.040s to end the second day on top.
Verstappen set his fastest lap on the C3s early in the second part of the day and remained at the top of the times until Zhou overhauled him in the final hour.
This marked Verstappen’s final running in 2023 pre-season testing, with Perez set to drive the RB19 for the entirety of the Saturday running.
Zhou and Alfa suffered late-session drama as he ground to a halt at the end of the pitlane during the virtual safety car test on track.
He’d stopped and was preparing to do a practice race start but never got going and had to be retrieved by his team’s mechanics.
This was followed in quick succession by rookie Logan Sargeant and Williams seemingly practising the evacuation procedure from a stricken car with hybrid failure.
Zhou’s C43 breakdown wasn’t the only stoppage of the day as George Russell’s Mercedes halted on track with an hour and a half to go with hydraulic failure – prematurely ending Russell’s day after 26 laps and leaving him 13th-fastest.
The recovery of his car caused a 20-minute red flag but that proved to be the only unplanned delay of the day.
Alonso continued his strong pre-season with Aston Martin by logging the third-fastest time on the C3 tyres, which was just under six tenths slower than Zhou’s benchmark.
He took on sole driving duties for Aston on Friday and clocked 130 laps. He’ll split running with reserve driver Felipe Drugovich, who still may be needed to fill in for Lance Stroll if the latter’s unable to race next weekend, on Saturday.
Alonso was followed by AlphaTauri rookie Nyck de Vries (C5), Haas F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg (C4) and the leading Ferrari of Carlos Sainz (C3), who had topped the opening half of the day.
Sargeant ended up seventh-quickest with 154 laps completed.
The top 10 was completed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and new Alpine driver Pierre Gasly.
McLaren’s difficult test continued, with CEO Zak Brown admitting during the lunchbreak that the team has missed its development targets for 2023.
Day two times
1. Zhou (Alfa Romeo) 1m31.610s, C5, 133 laps
2. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m31.650s, C3, 47 laps
3. Alonso (Aston Martin) 1m32.205, C3, 130 laps
4. De Vries (AlphaTauri) 1m32.222s, C4, 74 laps
5. Hulkenberg (Haas) 1m32.466s, C4, 68 laps
6. Sainz (Ferrari) 1m32.486, C3, 70 laps
7. Sargeant (Williams) 1m32.549s, C5, 154 laps
8. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m32.725s, C3, 68 laps
9. Piastri (McLaren) 1m33.175s, C3, 74 laps
10. Gasly (Alpine) 1m33.436s, C3, 59 laps
11. Magnussen (Haas) 1m33.442s, C2, 67 laps
12. Ocon (Alpine) 1m33.490s, C3, 49 laps
13. Russell (Mercedes) 1m33.738s, C3, 26 laps
14. Perez (Red Bull) 1m33.751s, test, 76 laps
15. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m33.954s, C3, 72 laps
16. Norris (McLaren) 1m35.522s, C2, 65 laps
17. Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 1m37.687s, C2, 85 laps