After taking over from team-mate Sergio Perez for the afternoon session, Verstappen instantly lit up the timesheet in the Red Bull RB19 and carved his way to top spot with a 1m31.650s on the C3 tyres.
The reigning world champion, who also spent the entire opening day of the test driving for Red Bull on Thursday, was duly further ahead on his test programme as some rivals didn’t switch focus to performance running until the final hour of the day.
With 30 minutes to go Zhou, who completed the full day in the Alfa Romeo C43, strapped on a set of C5 tyres and posted a 1m31.610s to depose Verstappen by 0.040s.
Mercedes missed the last 90 minutes of track action because George Russell suffered a hydraulic failure which left him stuck in fourth gear and triggered the only breakdown-related red flag.
It left Mercedes stranded on 98 laps for the day, Russell adding 26 to team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s 72 from the morning, as the team investigated the problem and sat out the end of the afternoon session.
Fernando Alonso put Aston Martin third on the overall times with a 1m32.205s set on the C3 tyres, as he completed the second test day alone with team-mate Lance Stroll out injured.
F1 rookie Nyck de Vries was another driver to try out the softer compounds towards the end of the day and went fourth using the C4 tyres with his AlphaTauri.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Nico Hulkenberg lifted Haas to fifth, also aided by running on the C4 compound tyres, to shuffle the Friday morning leader Carlos Sainz to sixth overall for Ferrari.
Logan Sargeant impressed for Williams ahead of his rookie F1 season by notching up 154 laps – the most of any driver on Friday – to take seventh ahead of the sister Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who spent the afternoon primarily on race simulation running.
McLaren’s new signing Oscar Piastri took ninth despite the team’s concerns with the MCL60, with team-mate Lando Norris 16th having run in the morning session.
Alpine duo Pierre Gasly in 11th and Esteban Ocon in 13th were split by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen on the overall times, ahead of the Mercedes pair who were divided by Red Bull’s Perez.
The final 15 minutes of both sessions were used for race control procedures, but two late mechanical issues appeared to strike Williams and Alfa Romeo in the afternoon session.
Sargeant hopped out of the Williams in the pitlane for a suspected electrical issue the team was testing, while Zhou was recovered from pit exit by the Alfa Romeo mechanics following an engine problem.
The 2023 F1 pre-season test concludes in Bahrain on Saturday.
Full Friday results:
|4||Nyck de Vries||74||1’32.222||0.612||0.017||211.264|
|View full results|