Ricciardo getting up to speed in no time
Daniel Ricciardo topped the morning timesheet just beating the two Honda-powered cars in Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri and Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Esteban Ocon in the Alpine just beat Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari who finished ahead of the early storming Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
Sebastian Vettel in his new Aston Martin was ahead of the three teams that seemed to struggle with Roy Nissany in the Williams, Mick Schumacher in the Haas, and Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes.
An interesting hour one of 2021
Raikkonen was the first car onto the track in 2021 followed by every team bar Alpine, Haas, Mercedes, and Williams in the first minute of the session.
Leclerc was the first driver out to do a timed lap with some early continuous running in the surprisingly different-looking SF21 whose time did not stand long as old teammate Vettel taking the early purple time.
Despite no early running Ocon, in his newly named team Alpine, was the first driver to hit double-digit laps shortly followed by Gasly within the first 40 minutes of the day.
Mercedes had been relatively quiet in the early stages of the morning in particularly after claiming there were no reliability issues with their PU.
This ended up being a transmission issue which would then take up an hour to replace the gearbox having to put up the screens 45 minutes into the session.
Continuing with the World Champions, the floor they did not want to reveal at the season opener had finally been revealed. At their launch, James Allison stated, "The bit we're not showing you is down along the edge of the floor. That area is the area that was most affected by the new regulations... Down there, there's a bunch of aerodynamic detail that we are not quite ready to release to the world."
As the article by Luke Smith above tells us, "The Mercedes floor has an intriguing arrangement with the floor edge rippled as it runs back from the front of the side pod area." Displaying complexities that look like the Mercedes should stand out again.
Verstappen was the only car to have a moment in the first hour after having a half spin at turn two where he and a Red Bull have had curious power surge issues in years previous raising a few eyebrows.
At the end of the first hour, Raikkonen had topped the timesheet with a 1:34.686 on the C3 tyre with four cars behind within half a second. An impressive feat until you see the pole time of last year set by Lewis Hamilton at 1:27.264 showing plenty of pace still to come from all teams.
The drop of the aero rakes
The times took a tumble just after the hour mark by two teams, both on the C2 tyre. First was Ocon before Verstappen brought the marker down to a 1:32.565 leaving him 2.121 seconds ahead of the previous table-topping time from Raikkonen.
The second hour was when the aero rakes seemed to disappear and the flo-vis paint came out as teams furthered the intensely compact testing of this season compared to years previous.
A third of the way through the session saw three teams and drivers beak the 20 lap barrier. Leclerc in his Ferrari had set 23 laps, followed by Gasly in his Alpha Tauri with 22, and Ocon in the Alpine had set 20.
Usually, there would be the concern of rain during pre-season testing or temperatures being too cold to upset the beginning of the season. In 2021, an hour and a half into the morning session, a sandstorm was being told that it would be soon coming. An irregular moment for F1 as the wind speeds really picked up.
Nissany in the Williams and Bottas in his Mercedes were the only two drivers still not to set a time as an hour and a half had gone by with that not looking to change any time soon. Nissany doing numerous install laps and bringing out the aero rake when everyone else put them away.
Around the same time in the morning, the next of the gearshift woes came to fruition this time in the hands of Kimi Raikkonen who reported struggles with gearshifts whilst out circulating.
At the end of hour two, the order had changed quite a lot. Daniel Ricciardo had found his way to the top of the timesheet with a 1:32.527, Verstappen shortly behind with Gasly closing out the top three.
Time on track, quiet?
With little cars running at the start of hour three, we again saw three cars breaking a lap counter, with Leclerc having 35 laps recorded, Gasly with 33, and Ocon the third with 30 exactly completed.
Hour three saw things become more about the confirmation of what data was gathered in the previous hours as most teams were doing fairly processional work bar the Mercedes, Haas, and Williams with their issues and altered run plan.
Coming towards the last 20 minutes of the hour saw Vettel come to a stop at the end of the pit lane causing a yellow in the pitlane and the team has to run down to recover him.
Heading into the final hour Ricciardo continued to hold the top spot with Gasly getting very close coming down to 0.028 seconds and Verstappen close behind keeping the top three identical. Bottas was the only driver without a timed lap as Nissany finally took on continuous laps.
The final hour started to show a standout team and driver in terms of mileage. Gasly recording 59 laps with 45 minutes remaining with the next best being Leclerc on 48. Impressive morning from the optimistic Alpha Tauri.
After three hours and 24 minutes into the session, Bottas came out for lap number two of the day after getting his gearbox changed in the session with aero rakes that were seen on other cars at the start of the day.
The same can be said for Mick Schumacher when his Haas came out with 20 minutes to go after also having a gearbox change through the morning session.
Charles Leclerc pulled over as the first on-track stoppage of the year on the entry to turn 4 after misfiring just before turn 1 and again out of turn 2 and 3 before bringing the car to a stop.
An interesting morning that will continue into the afternoon with seven of the ten teams changing their driver for the afternoon session. More importantly, cars again on track in 2021.