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Formula 1 2021: What happened at Bahrain Grand Prix FP1?

Max Verstappen topped the first free practice session of the year. Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images.
Max Verstappen topped the first free practice session of the year. Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images.
ANALYST
Modified 26 Mar 2021
Feature

Verstappen tops the first session as Mercedes show their hand in FP1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen topped the first free practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 season-opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Red Bull looked fastest, while Mercedes were finally able to conduct a sustained run without issues. Mercedes looked like the reigning champions as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas looked more comfortable in the W12.

Verstappen finished on top, followed by Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris. Rookies Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin took their first steps in Formula 1 as the Japanese sensation finished the session 14th in the standings. Predictably, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were at the bottom of the table in their Haas, who could struggle this Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

#1 Mercedes have their mojo back but the Red Bull is fast

Mercedes ran a smooth operation as the car looked faster and more stable than it did in the pre-season test. Both drivers looked comfortable throughout the session and there weren't any alarming issues faced by the team. Both drivers ran a similar practice program, as pointed out by Karun Chandhok during commentary.

Red Bull, meanwhile, picked up from where they left off at the shortened test in Bahrain. The car looks great in the hands of both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen. Early impressions indicate that it's too close to call between the two teams. The slipstream provided by the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi aided Max Verstappen's session-topping time in FP1 of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

#2 McLaren and Ferrari impress

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Ferrari and McLaren stood out among other midfield teams as Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris delivered impressive lap times. McLaren has maintained its impressive pre-season form while Ferrari have also taken positive steps since the three-day test. Expect these teams to be closely matched for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.

#3 Aston Martin is in trouble

The Aston Martin in Sebastian Vettel's hands looks a handful. The team struggled for balance throughout the session. Aston Martin didn't show the blistering pace expected of them, which could be down to the practice program the team ran. Although conditions will improve, the early signs don't look great for the British team, who could face a challenging Bahrain Grand Prix.

#4 Alfa Romeo show real improvement in pace

Alfa Romeo has made a big jump in performance since last year. Photo: Peter Fox/Getty Images.
Alfa Romeo has made a big jump in performance since last year. Photo: Peter Fox/Getty Images.

Alfa Romeo seems to be the team that has made the biggest jump in performance since last year. Even though the timing sheet should be looked at with a pinch of salt, the car looks to be a far improved version. The Alfa Romeo drivers finished 10th and 11th during the Bahrain Grand Prix FP1 session.

#5 Question marks over Alpine F1

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Both Alpine drivers spent most of the session at the bottom of the standings as the team's program revolved around long runs on the Hard compound tires. However, when the drivers eventually switched to the softer compounds, they could only finish 15th and 16th.

Although these are still early days for the team, and we cannot be certain of the program each team was running, it comes as a shock to see the French team out of touch with the midfield. It could be a long and difficult Bahrain Grand Prix for Alpine.

With the first official session of the Formula 1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix now completed, it is too early to jump to conclusions. However, fans can count on a very competitive year in Formula 1.

Published 26 Mar 2021, 19:33 IST
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