Mercedes struggle as Red Bull top the timings - F1 Pre Season Testing 2021
  • Severe Conditions and Difficulties Presented

During the afternoon session, the drivers encountered some difficulties in regards to grip and traction as a sand storm hit the Bahrain circuit.

The sand was flying off Esteban Ocon's Alpine, who was the one who opened this testing session. The wind was also a tough factor as it was changing directions and providing some challenges for the drivers.

Despite this, the drivers still managed to have a successful session with no interruptions. The visibility was certainly an obstacle for the drivers, but with only three days of testing and two weeks left till the new season commences, the teams had to get some mileage in for the cars and test out their components.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained how despite the weather conditions, Bahrain is a great circuit for testing as it rarely ever rains and so there is less risk of missing out on two days of testing, unlike in Barcelona. On the other hand, the hot temperatures during the day tend to make the track slower and then it gets faster as temperatures cool by night, which can get in the way of team obtaining accurate data and "pinpointing where you are in terms of pace."

  • Red Bull's Verstappen and Alpine's Ocon with over a century of laps

30 minutes into the session, Max Verstappen took out his Red Bull onto the track where only Yuki Tsunoda was out. The Red Bull proved to be very reliable, especially in these testing conditions as Verstappen completed  138 laps in total. The fastest time recorded by the Dutchman was that of 1.30.674, which was achieved after reaching a double race distance of 115 laps. It was a good day for Red Bull and tomorrow it's Mexican driver Sergio Perez's turn to take the RB16B for a run during his first season with his new team.

Alpine also went through a successful session as French driver Esteban Ocon went through 128 laps to provide the team with enough data regarding set-up options after this morning they worked on the aero configuration. The A521 looked to be reliable in these severe conditions. Ocon got some milage on his car as he used the first moments of the session to drive around the empty track and prepare himself for any similar conditions which he might face during races this season. With a return to Formula One, tomorrow Fernando Alonso will be the one representing Alpine on the track.

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  • Problems with the W12

It proved to be a difficult day for Sir Lewis Hamilton and co. after the team only managed 43 laps in total with the Englishman finishing in 10th place. 

During the last 10 minutes of the session, Hamilton went off the track in three consecutive laps - in turns six, ten, and one.

With three hours and two minutes left, Hamilton took on the track using the hard compound tires, as he aimed to make up for the lost time by his teammate, Valtteri Bottas whose car had some gearbox problems.

Hamilton seemed to have good control of the car at the beginning but after seven laps, the W12 was pushed back into the garage. Hamilton was heard over the team radio asking his mechanics for a pedal change. He went out again and after nine more laps, the Mercedes went back into the pit lane as Hamilton complained that one of his wing mirrors was loose. In the end, Hamilton also seemed to be struggling with grip and traction more than the other drivers.

This session raised many questions on whether Hamilton and Mercedes will be able to achieve their 8th title. Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes director of track ngineering admitted that there is a lot of pressure on the team. He also spoke about the different car floor shown during the launch to which was actually used. Mercedes said that they do not want to give away their new creation.

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  • Newcomers take on the track

Nikita Mazepin was the first newcomer to take on the track in the afternoon session. The weather made it very difficult for the Russian to record some smooth laps but was faster than his teammate at Haas, Mick Schumacher who drove the VF21 during the morning session. The German experienced some problems with his gearbox which lost him time on the track. The 22-year old Russian made up for it after recording 69 laps in total. He was also 1.329 seconds faster than Schumacher. It was a good session for the debutant despite the 360-degree spin he had at turn 11. Luckily, he managed to control his car well and get back on track without hitting the barriers.

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20-year old Yuki Tsunoda showed great confidence in the AT02. He tried sending a flying lap but the tricky conditions only got him a time of 1.37.508. Tsunoda displayed how difficult it was driving in this sand storm, as he went into turn two, he was off the throttle and driving as if he was driving in the rain using his hard compound tires. The Japanese driver has more to learn in Formula One, regarding several procedures of how the cars work in contrast to those of Formula Two. This was shown when he tried coming out of the pit lane and had problems with restarting his car. Tsunoda still managed to record a great session as he finished in ninth, just below his Alpha Tauri teammate Pierre Gasly who was 0.496 seconds faster in the morning session.

Meanwhile, neither George Russell nor Nicholas Latifi tested the FW43B today, as reserve driver Roy Nissany took on the track. He completed a number of 83 laps in total, finishing above both of the Haas cars and Bottas in 14th place. Both Williams drivers will only have a day of testing rather than one and a half like the others since Nissany was in the car. Using the medium compound tires, it was a peaceful session for the Israeli driver, as the only thing to go wrong was going off at turn 11 during his first run due to the weather and a lack of grip. The 26-year old managed to have good control of the car and get back on track.

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  • Great First Run for Sainz and Giovinazzi on Fire

Carlos Sainz took the SF21 for a run during the afternoon session using the hard compound tires to fight against the sandy track. He had a small lock-up at turn 10 during his sixth lap while spun at turn 11 later on in the session. Despite the little incidents, the Spaniard managed to finish fifth place while his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc ended in 11th place.

35 minutes into the session, Antonio Giovinazzi took to the track, helping Alfa Romeo to record  131 laps. He started the 2021 campaign positively as he finished in sixth place, just above Daniel Ricciardo, who topped the morning session. After 29 laps out on the track, Giovinazzi managed to go 0.258 seconds faster than the Australian in the McLaren.

Englishman Lando Norris was also faster than his teammate Ricciardo as he finished the session in second place, 0.215 seconds slower than Verstappen. He started off the session with C2 hard compound tires and managed to be faster than the Dutchman in the first sector. He then changed to the C3 medium tires, but it seemed that they were not working out well for him and changed to the hards immediately. McLaren is set to be one of the most competitive teams in the mid-table this year, especially with such a strong driver line-up and a better car. Also having components provided by Mercedes, it was noticed how McLaren does not have a bumpy front to cover the engine, like Mercedes and Aston Martin. The question that is being raised around McLaren is whether Ricciardo's experience in Formula One will be a threat to Norris's growing career?

And speaking of Aston Martin, Lance Stroll managed to set some good pace on the AMR21. Suffering from an electrical issue, the Canadian took the track after an hour and a half. Stroll's metallic green helmet was in sync with the AMR21 livery. With 18 minutes left on the clock, he managed to fire a lap of 1.31.782 which saw him finish in fourth place. Meanwhile, his new teammate Sebastien Vettel finished the overall session in 13th place. Both Aston Martins finished off the session with testing tires.

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  • Tomorrow's Session

Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Alpine's Fernando Alonso will be testing out their new cars for this season for a whole day tomorrow.

Lewis Hamilton will be taking the W12 for a run in the morning, while Valtteri Bottas will be testing it out during the afternoon.

Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris will be testing out for Mclaren in the same order as today for tomorrow, even Aston Martin's Sebastien Vettel and Lance Stroll. 

Yuki Tsunoda will be driving the AT02 in the morning while Pierre Gasly will be taking on the track in the afternoon.

Nikita Mazepin will be taking care of the morning session for Haas, while Mick Schumacher will be taking over in the afternoon session.

Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi and Williams' Nicholas Latifi have a full day of testing ahead of them tomorrow while Ferrari will surprise us with who will be taking on the track tomorrow morning.