Friday morning in Bahrain: Verstappen productive, start-up problems at Mercedes
Sand storms, problems with Mercedes and a trashy one Max Verstappen. Friday morning in Bahrain is over and immediately provided the necessary spectacle. In terms of lap times it was Daniel Ricciardo the fastest man on the track. Most of the kilometers traveled are in the name of Pierre Gasly.
After months of prohibition, Formula 1 has woken up from its hibernation. At the stroke of 08:00 this morning, the Bahrain International Circuit was officially released for the first time this weekend. With that, the test days prior to the 2021 season have started. These will take place this year in Bahrain, where the asphalt is surrounded by endless sandy plains. This is a very important period for the teams. The weaponry for this year can be tested here for the first time in practice. When the gates were opened, the first drivers immediately escorted their car onto the track.
Aero rakes and measuring equipment
This mainly happened with the well-known aero rakes and other measuring equipment on the wagons. Friday is therefore mainly about collecting data. The first time of the new year was clocked by Charles Leclerc. The Monegask recorded a 1.37.481. Former teammate Sebastian Vettel went under this not much later with a 1.36.367: the first official lap time for the four-time world champion in an Aston Martin. After the first half hour, however, it was Kimi Raikkonen who led the times list with a 1.34.686. In comparison, the pole position time at this circuit was a 1.27.264 last season.
Problems at Mercedes
The first problems of the weekend were striking enough for Mercedes’ championship formation. During the cranking of the W12, there was a defect in the gearbox Valtteri Bottas discovered. The well-known black screens were placed in front of the garage, which is only allowed if a team has a significant problem. The racing stable was forced to give up something to be able to replace the box. By the end of the first hour, eight drivers had entered a time on the board. Max Verstappen had a smooth opening phase – except for a small moment – and had nine laps to his name at this point.
Sand storms lurking, Verstappen is making progress
Noteworthy was also Mick Schumacher’s debut. The brand new Hare driver was making full use of meters on Friday morning. With that, the name Schumacher has officially returned to Formula 1. A special moment for many enthusiasts. With two hours and 45 minutes left on the clock, Verstappen improved the fastest time with a 1.32.565 on the hard tire. The RB16B looks a lot more stable than its slippery predecessor. The Dutchman therefore soon had the self-confidence to accelerate. In the meantime, the wind started to blow around the circuit located in the desert. Several sandstorms reared their heads, making the view a bit cloudy here and there.
Aston Martin Vettel comes to a standstill
Halfway through the session, Gasly set a new fastest time: 1.32.525 for the Frenchman. The AlphaTauri seems to be a stable and fast car again this year. Mercedes – just like the Haas team – was still busy replacing the gearbox at this point. A lot of time was lost for both teams – and therefore also for Bottas and Schumacher. The increasing wind meant that many drivers regularly braked and shot wide. Vettel was the next driver with problems. The German’s Aston Martin came to a standstill when leaving the pit lane, after which he was rolled back into the garage by his team.
At the start of the last hour, Bottas still only had one lap to his name. With 35 minutes left on the clock, his W12 was finally equipped with a new gearbox. Most of the session has been lost for him, however. With ten minutes left on the clock, the first red flag of the year was heralded by the stoppage of the Ferrari from Leclerc. This immediately ended the session. Ricciardo was still at the top of the times list. With a 1.32.203 he was the fastest man of the Friday morning. Most of the kilometers driven are credited to Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman completed 71 laps. Verstappen also had a productive morning with 60 laps.