Red Bull driver Max Verstappen remained on top of the timesheets in second practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix at Formula 1’s opening round of the new season.

During the low-fuel Soft tyre runs in the most important practice session of the weekend - with conditions representative of what we will see in qualifying and the race - Verstappen was once again the driver to beat as he kept Red Bull at the top of the order.

A 1m30.847s from the Dutchman saw him edge out McLaren’s Lando Norris by just 0.095s under the lights in FP2, while seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was two-tenths further back in his Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz was an encouraging fourth for Ferrari and within three-tenths of Verstappen’s benchmark, ahead of Valtteri Bottas who described his Mercedes W12 car as “undrivable” with the Finn ending up 0.371s off the pace.

Sainz’s replacement at McLaren Daniel Ricciardo was next up in sixth, with F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda impressing with a strong lap to sit seventh in his AlphaTauri AT02 challenger.

Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll was eighth ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, while Sergio Perez ended up over six-tenths of his Red Bull teammate to complete the top 10 order.

FP2 proved to be an incredibly close session, with the top 15 separated by less than a second, setting up a tantalising prospect heading into qualifying day on Saturday.

It would have likely been 16 cars had Kimi Raikkonen not hampered his session with a spin into the barriers after losing control of his Alfa Romeo at Turn 2 early on and breaking his front wing. 

Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin joined Raikkonen in suffering a spin in what proved to be another busy session with Friday practice reduced to just 60 minutes of running this year.