© Reuters. Sakhir Grand Prix

© Reuters. Sakhir Grand Prix

MANAMA (Reuters) – Max Verstappen set the tempo for Red Bull on Saturday to disclaim Mercedes a clear sweep of Formula One apply for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Dutchman lapped the shorter 3.5-km outer format of the floodlit Bahrain International Circuit in 54.064 seconds to go 0.206 seconds away from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn appeared to have reasserted his authority because the lead driver at Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in George Russell stole the highlight by setting the quickest time in each apply classes on Friday.

The 22-year-old Briton, an alternative to Lewis Hamilton after the seven-times world champion examined constructive for COVID-19, was solely seventh in Saturday’s last hour of apply, 0.6 seconds off Dutchman Verstappen’s time.

The Sakhir Grand Prix is the primary time Hamilton, who has already wrapped up a record-equalling seventh title, will sit out a race since he made his debut on the 2007 season-opener in Australia.

The sport’s most profitable qualifier by far, having taken his 98th pole place final week in Bahrain, the Briton’s absence might boost the battle for high spot in qualifying afterward Saturday.

Pierre Gasly was a formidable third for AlphaTauri forward of Renault’s Esteban Ocon.

Lando Norris was fifth in his McLaren forward of Verstappen’s group mate Alexander Albon in sixth.

Racing Point group mates Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll have been eighth and ninth respectively behind Russell, whereas Carlos Sainz rounded out the highest 10 for McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel was fifteenth however his Ferrari (NYSE:) group pulled him in early to hold out a precautionary engine change forward of qualifying.

The grid’s two new rookies as soon as once more propped up the timesheets.

Pietro Fittipaldi, standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean at Haas, was nineteenth with Russell’s Williams (NYSE:) substitute Jack Aitken final.

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