Kevin Magnussen made an eye-catching return to Formula One on Friday when he topped the times in pre-season testing in Bahrain, just 48 hours after replacing Nikita Mazepin at Haas.
Magnussen, dropped by Haas last season, signed a multi-year contract to take over from the Russian driver who was sacked following the invasion of Ukraine.
And the 29-year-old Dane showed no signs of ring rustiness as he set the fastest lap in the more favourable cooler conditions of early evening at the Sakhir circuit.
As the other teams were bedding thir cars down for the night with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz setting the quickest time Haas were allowed an extra hour due to freight delays which saw them miss Thursday’s first session.
Before Magnussen’s late strike it was Sainz for Ferrari who had cut a dash on the second day of testing with Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen leading the chasing pack almost half a second slower.
Lance Stroll for Aston Martin came next ahead of Lewis Hamilton, behind the wheel of the Mercedes which with its radical ‘no sidepods’ design has been the talk of the circuit.
Remarks attributed to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner from a German magazine on Thursday appeared to question the legality of the German constructors’ 2022 car.
But at Friday’s press conference Horner hailed Mercedes “innovative” interpretation of the new technical rules, insisting that “the comments quoted certainly weren’t made”.
“As far as we are concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations, just a different interpretation, different solution,” he said.
“It’s an interesting concept, it’s a radical concept. So it is quick or not, only time will tell, but in terms of compliance, it’s very much an FIA matter.”
Hamilton’s new partner George Russell, meanwhile, suggested that Ferrari were looking “globally the strongest” team.
But Sainz for one wasn’t totally convinced about the British driver’s take on the timings.
“I think it’s typical Mercedes, typical George, just hype the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away,” the Spaniard said.
“If it would be the first year they have done it, I would maybe believe them but they have done it for 5-6 years now and they keep surprising us in the first race so, as you can imagine, I don’t believe much.”
He then suggested that judging by GPS data, Mercedes had plenty left up their sleeves to unleash back in Bahrain for next weekend’s season opener.
Daniel Ricciardo was absent for the second day running due to illness with Lando Norris behind the wheel of the McLaren.
Team principal Andreas Seidl reported the Australian, who tested negative for Covid-19, was “improving”.
“I am quite optimistic that we will see him back in the car” on Saturday.