Alonso matches Red Bull pace as Mercedes make slow start in Bahrain practice
Fernando Alonso provided an unlikely threat to Max Verstappen and Red Bull in practice ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Red Bull will be expected to take the Formula One title again this year after dominating in 2022.
But Verstappen topped the charts in neither of the first two sessions of the week on Friday.
Team-mate Sergio Perez was fastest in FP1, yet Aston Martin's Alonso was in second, ahead of third-placed Verstappen.
In FP2, F1 great Alonso then went one better with the fastest time. Verstappen was again one place back, in second, with Perez third.
Red Bull could at least be encouraged by the lack of a credible challenge from their long-standing rivals.
Charles Leclerc was fifth and then fourth for Ferrari, and the two Mercedes cars were further back still.
Lewis Hamilton was made to work hard for a pair of top-10 finishes in 10th and eighth, while George Russell settled for 11th in FP1 before falling to 13th in FP2.