OK, we’ll be the first to admit that the first open test session of the Formula 1 season is nothing to get too excited about.
And taking anything out of who was fastest on the first day of the three-day F1 test in Bahrain is akin to conceding the World Series trophy to the guy who hit the most home runs in the first batting practice of the Major League Baseball season.
Still, there’s something special about seeing a few on-track numbers to go with all the F1 offseason hype. Seriously, no one expects Mercedes to struggle as much as the seven-time defending F1 Constructors’ Championship did on Friday.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was quickest, while Red Bull, McLaren, Alpine, Aston-Martin and Ferrari were among a bevy of cars to outpeform Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton, who is beginning his quest to break a tie with Michael Schumacher atop the all-time champions list in the series, was no better than 10th on Friday. Teammate Bottas was 17th out of the 17 cars on the track Friday.
“Today definitely wasn’t the cleanest of days that we’ve had but these things are sent to try us,” Hamilton said. “Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us here. We had that mishap in the morning which was very unfortunate for Valtteri in terms of losing time on track and the team is working hard to try and understand what that was. I think they did a great job to turn the car around. “
The afternoon season was shortened somewhat by a sandstorm that hit the Bahrain circuit. No, those weren’t rooster tails of water, but instead they were created by the sand blowing onto the track.”
“The second session wasn’t without its challenges, but we exist to find solutions to the problems we’re faced with,” Hamilton said. “We just had a good debrief and we’ll keep working away.”
“I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit. The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tires isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult. Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.”
As for Verstappen, who also recorded the most laps, he took Friday’s results with grain of salt, er sand.
“We had a very positive day and managed a lot of laps even though the track conditions were quite difficult,” Verstappen said. “It was very warm with a lot of wind and we know the degradation is always high around here so I’m very happy with how it went.
“We aimed for this number of laps and when you can complete a full program like this the Team can also be pleased with the information we have. We don’t need to talk about pace yet and it isn’t really a discussion until we get to Q3 at the first race weekend – it’s only then you see the real pace in all the cars. The main thing is that the car felt nice to drive, so it’s a positive start.”
Here’s what it looked like on the time chart Friday in Bahrain:
F1 Bahrain Test
Day 1 of 3
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