Motor racing: Verstappen beats Hamilton again to complete practice sweep in Bahrain

The 23-year-old Dutchman was fastest in pre-season testing.
The 23-year-old Dutchman was fastest in pre-season testing.PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen completed a clean sweep of practice to set himself up as favourite for pole position at the season-opening Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday (March 27).

The 23-year-old Dutchman, who was fastest in pre-season testing, lapped the Sakhir circuit with a best lap of 1min 30.577sec after going quickest in both of Friday's sessions.

Mercedes' seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was second quickest, but a hefty 0.739 of a second slower, with AlphaTauri's French driver Pierre Gasly third and more than a second off the pace in nearly 50 deg C temperatures.

"To be seven-tenths up on Lewis... I'm really looking forward to see if he can carry that on to qualifying," said 2009 champion Jenson Button, now a pundit for Sky Sports television.

"Mercedes will be quicker in qualifying, when the conditions will be cooler, but Max is on it every time."

Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the other Mercedes, and Verstappen's new teammate Sergio Perez was fifth but 1.331sec slower than the Dutchman.

Ferrari's new signing Carlos Sainz was sixth on the time sheets and collected a cheeky wave from former McLaren teammate Lando Norris as the Briton went past.

Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen was seventh fastest and Alpine's Esteban Ocon a promising eighth.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, returning after two years out, was 15th for Alpine.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was 14th for Aston Martin after exclaiming that "something from the front left corner came off and hit me in the face" and returning to the pits.

German rookie Mick Schumacher, son of Ferrari great and seven-time champion Michael, was again quicker than his Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin.