Bahrain GP: Alonso leads the Red Bulls in Practice 2

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Fernando Alonso sent the Aston Martin hype train into hyperdrive after leading Practice 2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The double world champion posted a 1m30.907s to lead both Red Bull drivers by less than 0.2s, as teams completed their first qualifying simulations under the lights at Sakhir.

Max Verstappen was second despite feeling less comfortable in the RB19 than during pre-season testing, just 0.002s faster than teammate Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc was almost half a second behind Alonso in fourth as Ferrari too appeared a little in the wilderness.

This was highlighted by Carlos Sainz only 14th in the sister car. The Spaniard was also seen bouncing down the main straight on high fuel as the team played with set-up.

Nico Hulkenberg claimed a strong fifth for Haas. Lance Stroll finished sixth but struggled with the effects of his wrist injury, particularly in the slow-speed corners during the race simulation at the end of the session.

Pierre Gasly gave the first indication of Alpine's speed in seventh, ahead of Lewis Hamilton in eighth for Mercedes.

Hamilton BahGP FP2

Lando Norris continued to offer McLaren encouragement in ninth. The Briton also did well to avoid colliding with Nyck De Vries in the pit lane after the Dutchman was released into his path.

as Zhou Guanyu completed the top 10.

Esteban Ocon found himself in an Alfa Romeo sandwich in 11th, in front of Valtteri Bottas. George Russell was a lowly 13th followed by the aforementioned Sainz.

Oscar Piastri was 15th and had an early moment as he had a drag race with Yuki Tsunoda down the main straight only to find Stroll going slowly on the approach to Turn 1.

Kevin Magnussen was 16th as Alex Albon and Tsunoda led the Williams and AlphaTauri group that brought up the field.

What was notable in FP2 was just how close the field appears to be with just 1.8s covering P1 to Logan Sargeant in P20.

All eyes are at the front, however, where Alonso and Aston Martin have been the big story ever since testing and will continue to be until qualifying at least.

Encouragingly, the Spaniard's pace during the long run was also very competitive, indicating his earlier single-lap speed wasn't just a glory run.

Even so, it's clear that Red Bull, Ferrari and several others are still holding their cards close to their chest, but on Saturday, the shackles finally come off!