Newly crowned seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix opening practice session.
Hamilton, who won the 2020 title in Turkey two weeks ago, was in familiar territory at the top of the timesheets with a fastest lap of 1: 29.033. Time left him 0.4 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the end of the session in what will likely be another Mercedes-dominated weekend.
The session took place in dry conditions despite a brief rainstorm in the desert on Friday morning, but was not representative of the conditions for Sunday’s race, which will take place after sunset and under the spotlight.
Most of the teams took the opportunity to run tests and had the first opportunity to run the final tire specification for next year. Pirelli has provided the teams with two sets of 2021 compound C3 tires, which can be used in both practice sessions on Friday and must be used for at least six laps in the second practice.
The tires are designed to operate at lower pressures than this year’s rubber in an effort to minimize complaints of overheating compounds next year. For the teams, it was also important to get information about the new tire construction, which will impact the revised aerodynamic design of their 2021 cars.
Sergio Perez finished third fastest in the session for Racing Point ahead of McLaren of Carlos Sainz and Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. Racing Point and McLaren are in an intense battle for third place in the championship – worth tens of millions of dollars – with Renault and Ferrari.
However, the combination of test items and 2021 tires meant the session results were even harder to read than normal, with Max Verstappen and Alex Albon sixth and seventh for Red Bull and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. on the 11th and 12th.
Leclerc and Verstappen both suffered spins during the session with Romain Grosjean, who lost control of his Haas in turn 7 at high speed and came close to contact with the barrier.
Friday’s second practice session will take place under the lights and will likely be more representative of the competitive order this weekend.