Sakhir Grand Prix Friday Pace Analysis 2020: Why The Data Suggest Everything Is To Play In Sakhir GP

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George Russell picked up where Lewis Hamilton left off at Mercedes, the British substitute leading the standings in Friday’s two practice sessions to cap off a brilliant opening day in his temporary environment ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix on Sunday. The silver arrows, especially in his hands, once again looked like the car to beat, but does the data match? Let’s take a look.

Rhythm of a lap

Mercedes track chief Andrew Shovlin believes George Russell and Valtteri Bottas have the pace to fight for pole position, despite the duo’s contrasting days.

While Russell settled in brilliantly and dominated the lap times, Bottas struggled to complete the perfect lap. But as our ideal lap feature showed, the Finn is actually the fastest of them all if he can pull it all together.

IDEAL LAP: Why Bottas will be happier than his lap times suggest

Looking at our short haul data, which takes into account a host of factors including tire compounds and fuel levels, Mercedes is the fastest on a lap, heading towards Racing Point by 0.4s / tower.

With margins so small because it’s only a 3.543km track, that’s actually a pretty big gap. Sergio Perez was the fastest of the pink cars, and despite using an old-specification engine after its last version suffered so much damage when it met a fiery end in the later stages of the Grand Prix Bahrain, depriving him of a deserved a consecutive podium.

Red Bull were surprisingly down in third, but Max Verstappen insisted they can find more time overnight. They were matched by Renault. The yellow cars improved their car in the low downforce trim – and that was evident here as they seemed like a stronger proposition than on the traditional track layout.

READ MORE: Russell downplays expectations after dominating Sakhir’s workouts, says lap times are ‘misleading’

AlphaTauri loves Bahrain – so it’s no surprise that they look very strong. Pierre Gasly, in particular, seems powerful on a lap, with the blue and white cars at 0.7 s / lap according to our data, stuck in fourth place with Renault.

2020 Sakhir FP2 Grand Prix: Vettel almost hits Magnussen with a big spin

McLaren are down to sixth in the pecking order, which does not bode well for their fight for the P3 in the constructors’ championship. Carlos Sainz said he was baffled by their lack of pace here, considering they were so strong on the longer track, where Lando Norris and Sainz finished P4 and P5 last Sunday.

Ferrari was at the bottom, but this result is skewed by the fact that Charles Leclerc failed to establish a lap time in FP2 after a problem with the driveshaft. This meant the team were relying on Sebastian Vettel, who was far from the beat as he struggled to keep his car in the right direction.

READ MORE: Leclerc encouraged by Ferrari Friday pace despite FP2 failure, as Vettel targets Q3 at Sakhir

RACE RACE

Andrew Shovlin said Mercedes made the car run well in the slower corners, which was not their strength last weekend. However, our automotive performance graph shows that they still have a deficit on the low speed corners towards Red Bull and, remarkably, Haas.


However, while Shovlin reckons that “the long drives weren’t quite there” and “Red Bull seems to be stronger,” our data suggests Mercedes has a 0.2s / lap advantage over blue cars. , with Racing Point third, 0.5 sec / lap adrift. It was an encouraging performance for the Silverstone-based team, who last failed to score in Bahrain, which brought them back behind McLaren in P4 in the constructors’ championship.

READ MORE: ‘Crazy it’s the big league now’ – F1 new boys Fittipaldi and Aitken on their drama filled Fridays

They have a 0.2s / lap advantage over AlphaTauri and Renault, who are tied, with McLaren’s race pace as disappointing as their qualifying speed. Norris and Sainz, however, remained positive, pointing to the fact that they had already experienced rough Fridays and have recovered.


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Ferrari’s racing pace was better than their lap speed, but they were still only faster than Haas and Williams, both of whom were leading a new driver with Pietro Fittipaldi looking strong replacing injured Romain Grosjean and Jack Aitken intervening. for Russell.

However, Leclerc was quite happy with the car’s pace in FP1 and FP2, so he’s hopeful that they can make good progress overnight and improve their standings as the weekend enters.

READ MORE: Drivers predict traffic ‘carnage’ in qualifying on Sakhir GP outer loop short

Verdict

Lewis Hamilton’s absence certainly opens things up, and while Mercedes looks the strongest in metrics, Bottas is not performing in his prime while Russell looks strong but is on a steep learning curve.

The Briton looks good for the weekend, but the challenge now is to build a pace and pump in a fast lap when it counts, under the pressure in qualifying – which is a different proposition from free practice.

Then he still has to deliver that pace in the race, which is no easy task in what will be his first time in this car. However, if he can pull it all together and deliver, F1 just might look a true star of the future.

READ MORE: Bottas sees ‘waste’ of early practice, sees best FP2 lap times suppressed on tough Friday in Bahrain

2020 Sakhir FP2 Grand Prix: on board for George Russell’s fastest lap

Uncertainty means there is a chance for those behind. Red Bull was expecting a tougher weekend as their Honda engine doesn’t quite measure up to Mercedes, but they were better than expected – and Verstappen still comes alive in the race. His teammate Albon is also on a return to form.

READ MORE: ‘We have yet to find more’ – Verstappen not satisfied despite P2 pace at Sakhir GP practice on Friday

And then there are the Racing Points. Perez loves Bahrain and showed last week that he is a podium. It’s a shame he’s using an older engine, which he says costs him a few tenths of a second, as that could rule him out of the fight for victory – but he’s certainly well placed for a podium.

The traffic will be a big problem in qualifying, especially in Q1 when all 20 cars are on the track. If they are all taken out at the same time and evenly spaced, there is only a two second gap between them, which is not clear enough to achieve a clean turn.


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Expect traffic to be a weekend theme

Timing a race, and dealing with passing slower cars, on a track where the margins are so small – the top 13 were only 0.8 seconds apart in FP2 – because there are so few turns, will be critical . And teams will want to minimize their pit stops, as the time lost in the pit lane is around 23 seconds – an eternity when a lap is under a minute.

WATCH: Vettel almost recovered by Magnussen after massive spin in training

However, qualifying is not the end, as a pass should be possible if, as Lance Stroll said, a little more difficult than expected this weekend given the difficulty of keeping up with the cars. – which bodes well for an exciting race, especially since the peloton is so close to the pace, relatively speaking.

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