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Bahrain FP2 Analysis: Aston Martin quickest, but Red Bull and Ferrari have potential to unleash

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FP2 ANALYSIS One of the most confused Friday's in recent Formula 1 history just ended, and it's been quite difficult to understand who has the most potential ahead of tomorrow's Qualifying and Sunday's race. I tried to gather my impressions on the pace between the top teams, here they are.

PART ONE: QUALI SIM ANALYSIS Alonso (AMR23) vs Verstappen (RB19) Let's start with the top guys: Alonso set a lap time 0.169s faster than Max, and looking at the telemetry for the first time I thought there was a mistake. Verstappen has a better minimum speed in almost every corner, so where does the AMR23 gain time? As you've seen from the arrows, under braking is where Alonso was much better than Verstappen (maybe also due to different driving styles): AM is very strong in the first part of the corner, while the RB19 takes over from the apex onwards with quite good traction.

The main weakness of the AMR23? drag. Through a simple comparison with the W14 (same engine) you can see how the power curve is quite similar, indicating similar HP being used, but once the cars go over the 290/300kph limit, the W14 has an advantage. Aston will suffer this more in Qualifying compared to today, it does seem like (in my opinion) Mercedes and its customers might have a slightly higher engine mode: tomorrow Honda and Ferrari will have an advantage in that aspect, so we will discover the truth about this.

Verstappen (RB19) vs Leclerc (SF23) The previous graph and this one shows how the RB19 is a complete car, with no major weaknesses as far as we can see up until this moment. Low speed is very good, medium and high speed too and for now top speed isn't an issue. Compared to what we saw in testing, Ferrari lost all of the top speed advantage it had: this could be due to a very different setup choice, but also due to a lower power output during Qualifying simulations today. The SF-23 also seems to have more potential to gain with setup

What about Mercedes? It was clear to everyone that Mercedes would start on the back foot, but currently it's hard to see them fighting even with Aston Martin! The W14 seems to have improved their drag issue, but medium and high speed corners do look like a weakness of the car. Alpine don't look to have used their PU to the maximum today compared to Aston Martin, but it's difficult to see them in the fight with the AMR23 as it stands. The A523 looks good in the slow speed corners, on the other side traction seems to be an area where the car struggles.

PART TWO: LONG RUNS ANALYSIS Long runs today were very confused, you could see that different cars had different fuel loads but obviously it's very difficult to put a number (and a lap time) on it. What we can analyse is tyre degradation, so here's the situation.

ALO (C3, 10 Laps): 1.37.248, +0.166s/lap STR (C2, 10L): 1.38.377, +0.128/l VER (C3, 12L): 1.37.220, -0.011s/l PER (C3, 14L): 1.37.691, +0.106s/l LEC (C3, 7L): 1.37.749, -0.098s/l SAI (C3, 8L): 1.38.148, +0.076s/l RUS (C3, 9L): 1.38.363, +0.158s/l HAM (C3, 11L): 1.38.481, +0.147/l

Alonso's lap times were very impressive, but towards the end of the stint degradation wasn't looking great. Verstappen on the other side was keeping the same pace, but with no tyre degradation at all: on Sunday that will be very hard to fight against. Perez was lapping around 0.4s slower than his teammate with much higher degradation. After a difficult time managing the C3 tyres in testing, Ferrari made a good step today and had some very good management of the softs with Leclerc. Mercedes is nowhere to be found also here. The top midfield teams (Alpine, Alfa Romeo, McLaren!, Haas) are closer to Mercedes specifically than what I expected. McLaren made a very good step forwards from testing, but everyone will be quite close tomorrow and Sunday.

Verstappen is surely the favourite for the win on Sunday and Pole tomorrow, while we could see Alonso, Leclerc and Perez battling it out for the front row and the podium. Or perhaps another surprise driver or team!

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