The F1 season began at the Bahrain International Circuit. The machines started the first of three days of testing. With the following list of drivers for today:
- Mercedes: Bottas (morning), Hamilton (afternoon)
- Red Bull: Verstappen
- McLaren: Ricciardo (morning), Norris (afternoon
- Aston Martin: Vettel (morning), Stroll (afternoon)
- Alpine: Ocon
- Ferrari: Leclerc (morning), Sainz (afternoon)
- AlphaTauri: Gasly (morning), Tsunoda (afternoon)
- Alfa Romeo: Raikkonen (morning), Giovinazzi (afternoon)
- Haas: Schumacher (am), Mazepin (pm)
- Williams: Nissany
Kimi Raikkonen was the first on the track, in a session that was lively from the start with most cars coming out of the pits in the first moments. Charles Leclerc gave us the first timed lap of the day with a time of 1´37.481. Interestingly, the next driver to take a break was his ex-teammate Sebastian Vettel who made the time of 1´36.367.
Relevant times were not expected at this stage, with many aerodynamic tests and the famous aerorakes (grids that evaluate high and low air pressure zones to understand how the air is being worked by the wings of cars) to be in fashion at this stage .
The test did not start in the best way for Mercedes. The car was stopped in the pit with the engineers encountering problems with the car’s gearboxes, which required changing the W12’s gearbox. A repair that stole practically three hours from Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes.
With regard to the action on the track, Max Verstappen was the first to get a scare, with the rear of his RB16B playing a prank on him, something that happened a couple more times, reminding the instability of the 2020 RB16.
Daniel Ricciardo was the highlight of the morning session spending most of the time at the top of the table. The Australian driver had a time of 1: 32: 203 after the middle of the session, a record that remained the best until the end of the session.
Roy Nissany had to wait two hours to make quick laps with his Williams, having done aerorakes work in the early hours. The wind in the circuit was increasing and there was news that there could be a sandstorm on the way to the track, something that has not materialized until now.
Haas also had problems. Mick Schumacher, with just seven laps to his name, stood in the box watching Haas mechanics doing a gear shift. The team announced that it had hydraulic problems in the first laps of the VF-21.
Pierre Gasly, at the beginning of the third hour of the morning session, temporarily took the top spot on the timesheet, but the McLaren driver tried to remove the Frenchman from the top. Gasly made two quick lap attempts in which he took the top two sectors, losing the advantage in the third sector. But that showed good progress on the part of Alpha Tauri.
Sebastian Vettel also stopped at the end of the pit lane in the third hour of the session, with problems with his Aston Martin, something that was minimized by the team that did not want to reveal the root of the issue.
The session was heading towards a calm ending, but Charles Leclerc finished ten minutes early with his Ferrari giving way in the middle of the track. A mechanical problem forced the Monegasque to take the ride back to the pits.
The green flags came back with three minutes to go with the cars returning to the track for a Virtual Safety Car test, which ended the morning session.
The cars showed greater instability, certainly the result of the less aerodynamic support they have this season. McLaren had a very healthy session with an interesting pace and a good number of laps, just like the Alpha Tauri, which looked very good, both in terms of lap times and in terms of the kilometers traveled. Red Bull was third, but with some instability in the car. Alpine, Alfa Romeo, and Aston Martin had a discreet session and Williams did a lot of correlation work. The big highlights go to Mercedes, which lost almost a morning of testing, as Haas and Ferrari also had problems the extent of which is not yet known.