Max Verstappen and Red Bull are the winners of Formula 1’s first Friday as Mercedes were left struggling for ideas in the Bahrain desert. Neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell looked comfortable in either session and look a long way off the top runners. Ferrari also looks set to challenge for top honours this weekend while Haas showed a much-improved performance to ensure they will be challenging for points.
Quite simply the team to beat based on today’s running. Verstappen topped the timesheets in FP2 after just edging the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. After the session, Verstappen hinted the car had more to give tomorrow so we could see Red Bull stamping their authority on the pack come qualifying.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were one of the most consistent driver pairings on Friday, finishing second and third respectively. With Sergio Perez only quick enough for seventh, Ferrari could gang up on Verstappen through race strategy to force one car in front on Sunday. The Scuderia’s lap times on the medium tyres in FP1 were also faster than Verstappen’s which could be interesting in the race.
A poor day for the Silver Arrows as both drivers revealed the true extent of their issues. Russell managed to put his car fourth fastest in FP2 but Hamiton struggled and could only manage ninth. The seven-time champion later claimed the team were facing “much bigger problems” this year and warned it could be a “longer-term fix”.
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Based on today’s showing, Alpine seems to be the fourth team in the F1 pecking order. Fernando Alonso improved his eighth in FP1 to fifth in FP2 and was consistently faster than the rest of the midfield.
Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen showed why Haas is 2022’s best-kept secret with an eighth and tenth-placed finish in FP2. The team’s decision to abandon 2021 development before last year has well and truly paid off with the team possibly jumping half the grid this season.
Pierre Gasly set the fastest lap in FP1 but the team struggled in the quick runs in FP2 to finish 13th and 14th. With this in mind, it’s hard to tell where the team’s true pace currently lies. Yuki Tsunoda did break into the top 10 in the first session as well.
Valtteri Bottas didn’t get any track time in FP1 after the car suffered from a misfire but was right on the pace in the afternoon session to go sixth fastest. New team-mate Guanyu Zhou has also impressed on his first proper F1 session by knocking on the door of the top 10 all day.
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Alpha Tauri Pierre Gasly set the fastest lap in FP1 but the team struggled in the quick runs in FP2 to finish 13th and 14th. With this in mind, it’s hard to tell where the team’s true pace currently lies. Yuki Tsunoda did break into the top 10 in the first session as well.
Team principal Andreas Seidl has warned the car is running an “interim solution” to the braking issues which plagued the team in Barcelona. Lando Norris managed to go eleventh quickest in the evening session but it’s clear the team will struggle this weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg is filling in for the team after Sebastian Vettel contracted coronavirus ahead of the weekend. Both him and Lance Stroll struggled to get any pace from the car and their times were only good enough for 16th and 17th, two seconds down on the leaders.
There was real optimism Williams could move off the foot of the table after new investment and a new driver in ex-Red Bull man Alex Albon. Both drivers were faster than the Mclaren’s in FP1 but they dropped to the bottom in the evening session on the soft tyre qualifying runs.