F1: Friday in Bahrain Round-up
After an absence of 102 days since racing in Abu Dhabi last year, Formula One is back with racing in Bahrain. With a new format to the Practice sessions this year, how did teams and drivers get on in preperation for the opening race of the season?
Max Verstappen confirmed Red Bull's Pre-Season pace by topping the first Practice session of 2021. The Red Bull driver set a 1:31:394 to top the session and was nearly three tenths quicker than his closest challenger.
Finishing in second and giving the Silver Arrows some hope after a difficult Pre-Season, Valterri Bottas placed his W12 in the top three with McLaren's Lando Norris just over five tenths behind Verstappen in third.
A lot of teams and drivers focused on their single-lap pace in preperation for Qualifying tomorrow.
Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton finished the session in fourth and over half a second behind the leading lap time.
Charles Leclerc boosted the Scuderia's confidence as the Monegasque claimed fifth with his lap just under six tenths slower than Verstappen's.
The top eight, from Red Bull's Verstappen to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr, were seperated by less than one second while the top 14 were seperated by less than two seconds.
The surprise of the session was Alfa Romeo. Both of their drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen finished in 10th in 11th with a gap of nearly three and a half tenths seperating the two drivers. Last year, Alfa Romeo finished eighth in the Constructors Championship and mainly battled to stay ahead of Williams and Haas but it seems that after Pre-Season, the team have taken a small step forward.
The ususal suspects, Williams and Haas, ended the session in the last four spots as George Russell led Williams' team-mate Nicholas Latifi ahead of the new Haas drivers of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Mazepin finished the session as the slowest driver and 3.5 seconds adrift of Verstappen's time.
Every driver set their best lap time on the Soft compound tyre with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly lapping the Bahrain circuit 23 times.
When Second Practice came around, the floodlights were turned on as drivers tried to get used to the conditions as these will be the same come Qualifying tomorrow.
Early on, the most experienced driver to compete in the sport, Alfa Romeo's Raikkonen, lost the rear of his C41 and ended up lost his front wing after hitting the barrier. Half-spinning out of Turn 3, the 2007 World Champion first hit the barrier with the car spinning round with the rear then hitting the barrier. Fortunately, the Finnish driver was able to make his way back to the pits.
But again it was Max Verstappen who topped the second with a time on 1:30:847 but right behind him was Land Norris who finished just under one tenth behind.
Norris confirmed McLaren's good pace as the Brit finished in the top three for the second practice in a row. His new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished the session in sixth which comfirms that the Woking team may be a potential threat and thorn in the side of both Mercedes and Red Bull.
It was a mixed session for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton looked more comfortable than he did in FP1 but lagged +0.235s behind Verstappen. However, it's important to note that it seemed that Mercedes had turned down the performance of their engines while Red Bull and Honda seemed to be using more power. On the other side of the Silver Arrows garage, there was concern.
Despite finishing second in the FP1, Valterri Bottas really struggled and claimed at the end of the session that his W12 was "undriveable".
AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, who makes his F1 debut this weekend, ended the session a strong seventh and ahead of more-experienced team-mate Pierre Gasly. Both drivers finished inside te top ten with Gasly completing the session in ninth.
At Alpine and Aston Martin, it was the younger drivers who finished ahead of their experienced team-mates. Esteban Ocon finished in 11th while returning Double World Champion, Fernando Alonso finished in 15th while at Aston Martin, Lance Stroll had a gap of three tenths between him and Sebastian Vettel in eighth and 14th.