Max Verstappen leads Bahrain GP preliminary practice

Max Verstappen leads Bahrain GP preliminary practice

Max Verstappen opened the 2021 Formula 1 season with the best first practice time for Red Bull Racing at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Dutchman climbed to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1m31.394s in the final five minutes of the session with a new set of softer tires.
The Honda-powered RB16B was 0.298s faster than Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas, but the hour of practice did little to clarify the competitive order between the two construction giants.

Red Bull Racing and Mercedes spent the first half of the session in first place in order, Sergio Perez opening the proceedings for his new team before being usurped by Lewis Hamilton and in turn Bottas.
Verstappen was the fastest shortly thereafter before another race with worn soft tires put Hamilton back in control at around 15 minutes.

But as the track temperature cooled as the sun approached, a Lando Norris race on fresh rubber saw the McLaren driver take first place at the halfway point before Bottas and Verstappen knocked him down. Norris would finish the third fastest hour and half a second off Verstappen’s headline time. Hamilton followed another 0.024s adrift.

Charles Leclerc was 0.599 seconds behind for Ferrari, with Perez finishing his first timed session for Red Bull Racing in sixth position and 0.677 slower than his teammate.

The 60-minute practice session – shortened by 30 minutes this year, as was the second practice later on Friday – took place during the day and therefore not representative of the night qualifying and race sessions, with ambient temperatures peaking at about 97 degrees F.

The track also started out dusty, especially in the pit lane – conditions that would be familiar to the drivers, who suffered a sandstorm during preseason testing here about two weeks ago.

Pierre Gasly finished seventh for AlphaTauri and 0.8s behind. Carlos Sainz followed in his official Ferrari debut 0.972s slower than benchmark. Daniel Ricciardo opened his career at McLaren with ninth place in sequence ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo, who completed the top 10 1.3 seconds off the pace.

Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen followed in 11th, keeping Aston Martin duo Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll at bay. Formula 1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda complained about slow cars in his first official session en route to 14th.

Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finished 15th and 16th after spending most of their session with the hard tire while most of the rest of the field burned through the soft compound.

Williams duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi followed in 18th and 19th place ahead of rookie Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, both more than three seconds behind the pace.

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