Lewis Hamilton tops Bahrain Grand Prix practice as Alexander Albon crashes heavily

Phil Duncan
·22 min read
British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the second practice session of the Formula One Grand of Bahrain on the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain 27 November 2020.The Formula One Grand Prix of Bahrain will take place on 29 November 2020 - Giuseppe Cacace/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-AMG Petronas in action during the second practice session of the Formula One Grand of Bahrain on the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain 27 November 2020.The Formula One Grand Prix of Bahrain will take place on 29 November 2020 - Giuseppe Cacace/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A stray dog halted an eventful second practice for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix after Alexander Albon crashed out at high speed.

Lewis Hamilton celebrated his title coronation by finishing fastest in both sessions at the Sakhir Circuit, but the drama unfolded away from the world champion.

First, the London-born Albon did his decreasing hopes of salvaging a seat with Red Bull few favours when he lost control of his car through the final corner.

After being elevated from AlphaTauri to Red Bull midway through his rookie season, Albon, 24, has endured a troubled second campaign.

And facing mounting speculation here that he will be replaced by Racing Point's Sergio Perez in 2021, Albon wrote off his Red Bull.

The Thai driver emerged unscathed from the accident, but his Red Bull mechanics were on Friday night facing a hefty repair job following severe damage to the front and rear of Albon's machine.

The running, under the 495 lamps that light up the circuit here in Manama, was brought to an immediate halt – but only moments after Albon's stricken car had been removed and the safety barrier patched up, the 90-minute session was red-flagged again when a stray dog broke through a fence and galloped on to the circuit.

Eight drivers on the track at the time gingerly returned to the pits and a five-minute delay ensued.

Peter Bonnington, Hamilton's race engineer, informed his star driver of the dog at the opening bend. The world champion replied: "I hope it is not Roscoe", in reference to his pet bulldog who has accompanied the newly crowned seven-time world champion to Bahrain.

Despite the eventful on-track action, it was business as usual for Hamilton at the front.

Hamilton finished almost four tenths clear of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, with Valtteri Bottas third in the other Mercedes. Perez was fourth.

Hamilton has been in a school of one this year, winning 10 of the 14 races staged en route to drawing level with Michael Schumacher's record with three rounds to spare.

The Englishman's £40 million-a-season Mercedes contract expires at the end of next month, and speaking here, he was critical of the sport's bosses' plans to introduce a driver salary cap which could dent his future earnings.

In a meeting of the F1 Commission last month, all 10 team principals, including Hamilton's Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, agreed to splitting both drivers' wages within the same team to no more than £22 million-a-year from 2023. The concept is subject to ratification but falls into line with the sport's vision of drastically reducing costs.

Next season a budget cap will be introduced where teams must spend no more than $145 million (£112m). This will reduce to $140m (£108m) in 2022 and $135m (£105m) in 2023. Mercedes and Ferrari currently both operate at costs in excess of £300m a year.

But Hamilton said: "The drivers here are the stars of the sport and it is their reputations which elevates the sport and helps it travel around the world.

"If you look at other sports, there have been salary caps in NFL and basketball. But I think the one difference is that those individuals own their image and they can try to maximise that elsewhere. But this sport pretty much controls the driver's image.

"I do think about the next up-and-coming young stars and I don't particularly see why they should be handicapped if they're bringing something huge to the sport. It is a multi-billion pound sport and they should be rewarded."

Final Times after second practice

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1mins 28.971secs

  2. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:29.318

  3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:29.336

  4. Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:29.403

  5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:29.462

  6. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:29.551

  7. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:29.841

  8. Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:29.871

  9. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:29.900

  10. Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:30.014

  11. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault 1:30.085

  12. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:30.110

  13. Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:30.271

  14. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:30.407

  15. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:30.627

  16. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:30.849

  17. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:30.928

  18. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:30.973

  19. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:31.119

  20. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:31.636

04:45 PM

That's it from me today

I'll be back tomorrow for qualifying. Stay tuned in a few moments for Phil Duncan's final report and the times from second practice. 

04:32 PM

FP2 ends - Hamilton leads Verstappen

Bottas third, Perez fourth. 

04:32 PM

FP2 - Not much happening of note in the final few laps

A slight lack of running but Hamilton looks the class of the field again. Bottas perhaps not too representative of his own potential. 

04:27 PM

FP2 - Order with three minutes remaining

  1. HAM

  2. VER

  3. BOT

  4. PER

  5. RIC

  6. GAS

  7. NOR

  8. STR

  9. KVY

  10. ALB

  11. OCO

  12. VET

  13. SAI

  14. LEC

  15. GIO

  16. MAG

  17. RAI

  18. LAT

  19. GRO

  20. RUS

04:19 PM

FP2 - Hamilton goes quickest

With a 1.28.971... that's 0.347s quicker than Verstappen. 

04:15 PM

FP2 - 16 minutes remaining

Verstappen out there. Not a great amount of running for George Russell today. He missed FP1 as Roy Nissany was driivng and now he has only done 18 laps, fwer than anyone except the crashy Albon. Not by a huge amount, but still. Not ideal. He is down in P20 and last, some 0.6s off the pace of team-mate Latifi. 

04:08 PM

FP2 - Hamilton struggles to find a gap

Having to back right off to almost stopping behind Verstappen. How's he looking? He's 0.007s up after the first two sectors and he's closed up to the back of Gasly by the end of the lap. Does that affect him? Possibly, as he only goes sixth and 0.271s off Verstappen's time. 

04:04 PM

FP2 - Green flag

And we have 27 minutes or so. It's going to be busy...

04:00 PM

FP2 - RED FLAG

Again? What's happened here? Problems with debris on the track still or with the repairs to the barrier where Albon went off. Nope, it's a dog running on the track. 

03:58 PM

FP2 - Session resums

We will have 33 minutes remaining. 

03:56 PM

FP2 - Running order after 54 minutes

  1. VER 1: 29.318

  2. BOT +0.018

  3. PER +0.085

  4. GAS  +0.233

  5. RIC +0.285

  6. NOR +0.523

  7. STR +0.553

  8. KVY +0.582

  9. ALB +0.696

  10. VET +0.792

  11.  SAI +0.953

  12. OCO +0.994

  13. LEC +1.089

  14. GIO +1.309

  15. MAG +1.531

  16. RAI +1.610

  17. LAT +1.655

  18. GRO +1.801

  19. RUS +2.619

  20. HAM +6.789

This is pretty much everyone having done a lap on the soft tyres. All apart from, I believe, Ocon, Grosjean and Hamilton.  

03:54 PM

That crash should not make a difference to Red Bull signing Albon

But it's another big tick in the "no" column, isn't it? I cannot, in any sensible world, find a justification for Red Bull keeping him and not signing Sergio Pérez. It makes absolutely zero sense. 

03:53 PM

Big mess...

37 minutes on the clock and running out... 

03:47 PM

FP2 - RED FLAG

Alex Albon has had a huge crash. Think he'll be okay but it's made a real mess of his motor... 

He ran wide at the penultimate turn, got on the dust, the front snapped on him and then it was into the barrier at speed along the right of the car. A huge mess. Not the first time he's done that this season and that's going to make his weekend a hell of a lot harder. 

03:46 PM

FP2 - Bottas on the softs now

He splits Verstappen and Perez. 0.018s behind Verstappen in the end. Interesting. 

03:44 PM

FP2 - 48 minutes remaining

Verstappen and Perez both on hot laps on the softs so this could be a good reference.

Verstappen quickest in S1, what can Perez do? He's a littld won on Verstappen in S1, a bit less. Verstappen does a 1.29.318 but got worse as the lap went along. Without even his quickest time in S2 and S3. Perez quickest in S2 and a tenth up on Verstappen overall. 

Decent through the final two turns but he loses a little time in the final sector and ends up second, just 0.085s behind the Red Bull. 

03:37 PM

Fastest sectors

 Not much action from Bottas and Hamilton, who are down in 19th and 20th and have only done laps on the unmarked Pirelli tyres. Six seconds off the pace at the moment but that is utterly meaningless. 

03:35 PM

FP2 - Vettel on a hot lap on the softs

And he's nearly 0.8s off the pace of Verstappen on the mediums. That is not very good. At all. Ferrari could be struggling big time here. And next week on the outer circuit layout, too. 

03:29 PM

FP2 - Now Perez in second

Racing Point and AlphaTauri looking quite tasty again here this weekend. Kvyat in fourth at the moment. 

03:28 PM

FP2 - Gasly in second, Albon in third

Albon 0.7s off Verstappen. I have a lot of sympathy for him but I just cannot see how it is in any way sensible to keep him at Red Bull next season. 

Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 27, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Getty Images Europe /Rudy Carezzevoli 
Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 27, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Getty Images Europe /Rudy Carezzevoli

03:24 PM

FP2 - Verstappen goes quickest

1.6s quicker in the end. A 1.29.318 on the mediums. 

03:24 PM

FP2 - Verstappen's hot lap is quickest in sector one

No surprise. And the same in S2. He's 1.156s up on Raikkonen's best with one sector left. 1.5s quicker overall do we reckon here?

03:23 PM

FP2 - Raikkonen goes quickest on the mediums

He's 0.061s quicker than Sainz, who was on the unmarked Pirellis. Verstappen out there on mediums, too. Session should get a bit more interesting now. 68 minutes remain. 

03:20 PM

FP2 - Verstappen compliments Hamilton on his drifting skills

He's right behind the Mercedes and can see his work first hand, close up. Hamilton complains about the lack of grip out there...

03:15 PM

FP2 - We do not know the make-up or compound of these unmarked tyres

So this is a bit pointless, but here's the order so far.

  1. SAI

  2. VER

  3. LEC

  4. NOR

  5. PER

  6. OCO

  7. ALB

  8. KVY

  9. GIO

  10. STR

  11. GAS

  12. MAG

  13. RIC

  14. LAT

  15. RAI

  16. GRO

  17. RUS

  18. BOT

  19. HAM

  20. VET

A second between first and 13th and a second between 13th and 14th. Big gaps below that.  

03:12 PM

FP2 - Almost everyone on the Pirelli development tyres

Everyone but Vettel and Leclerc, in fact, who are on the mediums. 

03:10 PM

FP2 - Verstappen going around the outside of Perez at turn 12

Very, very close. Think Verstappen enjoyed it, though. 

03:07 PM

FP2 - More running of the Pirelli 2021 development tyres in this session

Bottas on them at the moment and went straight on in turn five...

03:03 PM

FP2 - 89 minutes remaining

A whole host of cars out there now, keen to get laps in conditions similar to qualifying and indeed the race. 

03:01 PM

FP2 begins!

90 minutes to go. 

02:58 PM

We're nearly ready go to

As darkness has descended in the desert. 

02:51 PM

Looks better under lights, doesn't it?

02:28 PM

FP1 highlights

Some spins...

02:27 PM

Hello and welcome back

Second practice gets underway under lights at 3pm GMT. It should hopefully tell us a bit more than the first session did, which was run under cloudy skies. Track conditions more similar to what they will be during qualifying and the race this weekend. Mercedes sure to be the fastest, though...

12:44 PM

Okay, that's it from this session

Back at about 2.30pm before second practice gets going at 3pm. 

12:33 PM

FP1 - Classification

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. PER

  4. SAI

  5. GAS

  6. VER

  7. ALB

  8. OCO

  9. STR

  10. RIC

  11. LEC

  12. VET

  13. KUB

  14. GTO

  15. MAG

  16. GIO

  17. KVY

  18. NOR

  19. LAT

  20. NIS

12:32 PM

FP1 ends - Hamilton quickest

and Bottas second. Nobody else within half a second of them...

12:29 PM

FP1 - That's Verstappen's session over

Due to a problem on the rear of the car. Only a couple of minutes left though. Still, 18 laps is the fewest by far of any of the drivers out there today. Mercedes have done 40 laps each...

12:26 PM

FP1 - Ocon pops up into P8 for Renault

It's been an okay season for him. Not great but I think it has underlined how strong Ricciardo has been and that makes Ocon look a bit weaker than he has been. That said, he was expected to push him and that has not really happened. He has never beaten the Australian in a dry qualifying session this year. 

French Formula One driver Esteban Ocon of Renault in action during the first practice session of the Formula One Grand of Bahrain on the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain 27 November 2020.The Formula One Grand Prix of Bahrain will take place on 29 November 2020 - KAMRAN JEBREILI/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
French Formula One driver Esteban Ocon of Renault in action during the first practice session of the Formula One Grand of Bahrain on the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain 27 November 2020.The Formula One Grand Prix of Bahrain will take place on 29 November 2020 - KAMRAN JEBREILI/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:22 PM

FP1 - Order with 8 mins to go

  1. HAM

  2. BOT +0.449

  3. PER +0.967

  4. SAI +0.985

  5. GAS +1.016

  6. VER +1.261

  7. ALB +1.269

  8. STR 

  9. RIC

  10. LEC

  11. VET

  12. KUB

  13. GRO

  14. MAG

  15. GIO

  16. KVY

  17. OCO

  18. NOR

  19. LAT

  20. NIS

12:17 PM

FP1 - Leclerc has bolted on the soft tyres

And is trying to move up from P18. He surely will. He's up on the back of a AlphaTauri car on a long run, I think, and abandons his lap. He was 0.9s down on Hamilton after two sectors, so may have slotted into the top 10 had he continued. But he didn't as the AlphaTauri just sat on the apex towards the start of the final sector. 

12:08 PM

FP1 - Sainz in fourth

He's also within a second of Hamilton. Again, on the softs. Track conditions not particularly representative of what will happen in qualifying and the race. Plus the complications of a bit of rain (though nowhere near enough to run on anything other than slicks) and the Pirelli development tyres having been run. 

12:04 PM

FP1 - Perez now up into third

The only driver within a second of Hamilton that isn't a Mercedes, but only just a smidgen ahead of Gasly. He was on the softs, though, whereas Gasly was on the mediums. Gasly took fourth here in his first full season, remember, and that was arguably the result (along with a couple of others) that got him the Red Bull drive for 2019. 

 Pierre Gasly of Scuderia Toro Rosso and France celebrates finishing in 4th position during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 8, 2018 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Peter J Fox /Getty Images Europe 
Pierre Gasly of Scuderia Toro Rosso and France celebrates finishing in 4th position during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 8, 2018 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Peter J Fox /Getty Images Europe

11:57 AM

FP1 - 35 minutes remaining

Verstappen spins at the final turn but keeps it going. He's on the Pirelli development tyres, which he says are flatspotted. Will he continue on those? He does at the moment. He's supposed to do six timed laps on them and he has only done one so far...

11:54 AM

FP1 - Bottas on a hot lap

0.567s ahead of Gasly and also on the medium tyres. If anything that underlines how good Gasly's lap was. That said, Hamilton has just beaten Bottas by 0.449s to go quickest. 

11:53 AM

FP1 - Kvyat has his lap time deleted for a track limits infringement

And he says "get rid of the f------ track limits." Nonsense on stilts, as they say. 

11:51 AM

FP1 - Gasly to the top of the timesheets

And on a medium tyre! Variation! That's a good lap, though. A 1.30.049, 0.084s ahead of Hamilton. He is having a storming season, even if you take his monumental win at Monza away. 

11:45 AM

FP1 - 45 minutes to go

So we're half-way through. Hamilton at the top. Not much running on the medium tyres so far, mostly the hards, unmarked Pirellis or the softs. Only Norris and Latifi have tried the mediums. 

11:39 AM

FP1 - Perez up into second on the softs

0.068s behind Hamilton and a similar margin ahead of Bottas in third. 

11:36 AM

FP1 - Complete order after 1h5

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. VER

  4. PER

  5. ALB

  6. GRO

  7. STR

  8. KVY

  9. GAS

  10. OCO

  11. RIC

  12. SAI

  13. MAG

  14. VET

  15. LEC

  16. KUB

  17. GIO

  18. LAT

  19. NOR

  20. NIS

11:33 AM

FP1 - Hamilton on a hot lap

And likely to go first by a biiig chunk. 0.5s after the first two sectors and he actually loses over three tenths in the final sector — but still quickest by 0.144s ahead of team-mate Bottas. Yellow flags caused by an off for Grosjean and it's a long detour back to the track. Big flatspot on the front left. What happened?

Lost the rear into the esses at turn five and six, goes into the gravel backwards but keeps it out of the barrier. Now Leclerc has an off, too. 

11:31 AM

Track limits update

Yawn. We need something a bit better... gravel? Something slippy.

11:29 AM

FP1 - Verstappen pops up into second

But Albon goes into first, 0.077s ahead of Hamilton, who is now on those unmarked tyres. Both Red Bulls on the softs, though. 

11:26 AM

FP1 - Bit of chat about Bottas's season on Sky Sports F1

He has had a few bouts of bad luck that Hamilton has not. Think Silverstone's first race, a couple of other bits of floor damage in races, power unit failure in the Eifel Grand Prix. Take away those and he would be closer to Hamilton. Put that on Hamilton's car and closer still. Enough for him to be leading the championship? Probably not too far off. Still, Hamilton has been best in every area and that gap has been significant in the races. 

 Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 locks up during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 27, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Dan Istitene - Formula 1 
Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 locks up during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 27, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain - Dan Istitene - Formula 1

11:21 AM

FP1 - Top 10 so far

  1. HAM 1.:30.503

  2. KVY +0.517

  3. BOT +0.839

  4. ALB +1.044

  5. RIC +1.068

  6. SAI +1.124

  7. LAT +2.083

  8. GIO +2.382

  9. MAG +2.647

  10. NOR +2.749

Albon on the unmarked tyres, everyone else on the hards bar Kvyat and Latifi on the softs and Giovinazzi on the mediums. 

11:16 AM

FP1 - Textbook lock-up from Bottas

In the usual place. That tyre is usually unloaded, though, so often looks worse than it is. Having said that, it's properly flat spotted. In two places. 

 It hasn't been a terrible season from him but neither has it been a great one. Just two wins. A win or two in the final three races would go down very well. 

11:12 AM

FP1 - Ocon has a very odd problem

His front left was lifting off the ground in the corners. Totally odd. He's back in the pits. 

11:10 AM

FP1 - Hamilton top at the moment, ahead of Bottas

All pretty meaningless at the moment, though. 

11:07 AM

FP1 - 85 minutes remaining

2021's Pirelli tyres are being used by all drivers at various points in these two practice sessions. Lando Norris currently on a set of unmarked tyres and on his way around. A minimum of six timed laps required by each car from Pirelli. 

11:03 AM

FP1 - 86 minutes to go

Robert Kubica is also out in action for Alfa Romeo, so that's two reserve drivers in action. It's Russell and Raikkonen who have made way respectively this time. 

11:00 AM

FP1 begins!

90 minutes to go. 

10:52 AM

What of Sergio Pérez?

It's madness that he does not have a seat for next year, let alone a good one. I've a comment piece out today where I look at why Red Bull would be wrong to choose incumbent Alexander Albon over the experienced, talented, extremely  impressive and free Pérez. 

10:43 AM

Just how good is Mick Schumacher?

He's the son of seven-time champion Michael and the current leader of the F2 championship. He's on the verge - though yet to be confirmed - of an F1 seat for 2021. We looked at just how good he is and whether he can succeed in F1. Read the full piece here. 

Composite image of Mick Schumacher and his father Michael Schumacher
Composite image of Mick Schumacher and his father Michael Schumacher

10:37 AM

Roy Nissany straight from F2 practice into F1 practice

10:24 AM

Current driver standings

10:12 AM

Current weather forecast

For those that are interested, there's a bit of rain in the air and also in the area. Tomorrow has a chance of rain during qualifying, though by far from a great deal. Sunday is forecast to be largely dry and sunny, though it'll obviously be beyond the horizon for the race. 

09:40 AM

Good morning F1 fans

And welcome to our coverage for the first of the final triple-header of Formula One's strange but action-packed 2020 season. The triple-header starts with a race here under lights in Bahrain, on the traditionally-used track, then next week we have the never-used-before outer layout which is likely to be very, very fast. Finishing it all off on December 13 is the finale at one of the worst tracks on the calendar — the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Thankfully (or not) both titles have already been wrapped up already. 

The past few years we've had some very fine races after both championships have been decided and there is an occasionally an end-of-term feel to some of the races. Drivers leaving teams (Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz) and some leaving the sport altogether most likely (Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen). 

Still, although it's going to be Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at the top of the respective standings when it's all done and dusted, there are still some of the minor places to be decided, in particular fourth place in the drivers' championship and third in the constructors'. It's very close in both. 

Four points separates Sergio Pérez (incredible that he doesn't have a seat for next year...), Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc with Sainz, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon a little further back and, realistically, out of contention unless something very strange happens. For the teams, any one of Racing Point, Renault, McLaren or Ferrari could claim third. Racing Point lead the way at the moment on 154, McLaren on 149 and Renault on 136. Ferrari are on 130 and are an outside bet — it will take some superb performances from both drivers to outscore the three teams above them. But you never know. 

Anyway, practice in Bahrain gets going at 11am, so in just over an hour. It was raining earlier. You could say the clue is in the name but it's not — it's in a desert...

As ever I'll be here for all the updates and talking points from both Friday practice sessions, the second of which is under lights.