The three days of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit came to an end on Sunday night, with Max Verstappen finishing the quickest overall and a one-two for Honda-powered engines.
While it was a perfect weekend for Red Bull, Mercedes experienced reliability and performance issues as Lewis Hamilton spun not once but twice throughout testing, with the W12 looking a lot to handle in Bahrain.
Honda-powered engines impress
Many eyes were on Red Bull in testing, with the hope that they could finally close the gap on Mercedes and provide Verstappen with a championship-winning car. Based on testing throughout the three days, it seems Red Bull could have definitely made ground on their championship rivals.
The Dutchman spent the whole of Friday in the RB16B car, and although he struggled in the opening stages of testing after losing the rear a few times, Verstappen quickly got hold of the car and went the fastest overall on the opening day, setting a time of 1:30.674. He would then spend Sunday afternoon in the car, performing qualifying sims that saw the Red Bull go fastest and set the quickest time throughout the three days (1:29.942).
That made it a Red Bull one-two on the Sunday after his new teammate Sergio Perez also went fastest in the morning session with a time of 1:30.187. Although times are not the best indicator in testing, Red Bull looked faster than ever before, especially with a Honda-powered engine.
Even more proof was rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri, another Honda-powered engine, who was second fastest overall on Sunday and just nine-hundred of a tenth behind Verstappen. Pierre Gasly was also second quickest in the Saturday afternoon session, completing a staggering 87 laps. AlphaTauri could also be dark horses this season, showing more pace than Ferrari and Alpine, while displaying outstanding reliability after ranking up the most completed laps through testing with 422, same as Alfa Romeo.
McLaren and Alpine show progression
It was the first appearance of the McLaren car with a Mercedes engine, and boy was it fast. Daniel Ricciardo joined McLaren after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and we can guarantee he was smiling with joy after the first run. The Australian finished the opening morning session on Friday as the fastest overall, completing a time of 1:32.203, but it wasn’t just a one-off. Lando Norris in the afternoon session was second quickest, narrowly behind Verstappen by two-tenths. Throughout the weekend, McLaren had at least one driver in the top five in every session.
At one point on Saturday, Sky Sports F1 even confirmed that McLaren was ahead of schedule in their programs, maybe showing that McLaren could compete with Red Bull’s and Mercedes’ this season.
We were treated to seeing the newly re-branded Alpine F1 Team, previously known as Renault, on the track for the first time. They also welcomed back two-time world champion Fernando Alonso back to the F1 grid, but they were concerns if he would even participate in the three-day testing. Earlier in the month, Alonso was involved in a cycling accident that broke his jaw and revealed on Friday that he would have to race with two titanium plates in his jaw for the rest of the year.
That didn’t stop hamper him. He went just one-tenth behind Ricciardo in the Saturday morning session before completing 127 laps throughout the whole day. As we mentioned above, F1 testing is not usually a good indicator of how fast each car is. However, alongside Esteban Ocon, the Alpine F1 Team looked incredibly quick throughout the three days.
Mercedes are looking for their eighth consecutive world championship in 2021, but after three days of testing, it might appear to be one of their most competitive seasons to date.
It all started on Day 1 when Valtteri Bottas could only complete six laps in the opening four-hour session after Mercedes found an issue with the transmission when firing up the car. The team decided to swap the gearbox there and then solve the problem, leaving the Finn with only 40 minutes to get some laps in.
Their issues stemmed into the next day as their problems persisted. Sir Lewis Hamilton struggled to get a handle of the car, and in the Saturday morning session, he spun off at turn 13 and beached his W12 in the gravel. While Mercedes seemed to have found the issue that was making the car unstable and unbalanced, Hamilton still struggled with the handling. The British driver on Sunday afternoon lost control of his car, once again, spinning on the exit of the final corner and narrowly avoiding Haas’ Nikita Mazepin.
It emerged that Mercedes were the only team not to participate in a shakedown, which could explain the lack of understanding and reliability issues the team faced throughout the three days.
Aston Martin nowhere to be seen
Everyone was waiting to see Aston Martin return to the F1 track, but in all honesty, we rarely saw the AMR21.
On Saturday morning, Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin came to a halt in the garage with a gearbox-related issue, completing just nine laps. The newcomers were then stuck to the bottom of the timesheets on Sunday as the plenty of speculation surrounding the team issues escalated across the weekend.
Aston Martin failed to show any real sign of progression over the three days of testing. However, as we keep mentioning, testing is not the best indicator about which car is the best, but at this moment in time, none knows where Aston Martin is in terms of other teams.