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Formula 1 2021: What did we learn in FP3?

Verstappen topped the practice timesheet for the third straight session. Photo:Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Verstappen topped the practice timesheet for the third straight session. Photo:Mark Thompson/Getty Images
ANALYST
Modified 27 Mar 2021
Feature

The third and final free practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain is in the books and it was Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen who led the timesheets yet again in conditions that would not be representative of the race or qualifying.

Here are our 5 key takeaways from the third free practice session.

#1 Red Bull is fast, but don't count Mercedes out

The final lap from Max Verstappen would have made everyone stand up and take notice. It's not the lap time specifically that should have caught everyone's eye but the way that Red Bull was balanced throughout the lap.

Adrian Newey seems to have waved his magic wand yet again, producing a car that is quick in all conditions. Whether it's morning, afternoon, or night, the Red Bull sticks to the track better than another car on the grid.

The Mercedes cars are still feeling their way through the lap and appears to lack the edge that Red Bull possesses at present. But counting out the Formula 1 world champions before the first quality of the season? Do it at your own peril.

#2 The unofficial No.2s at Mercedes and Red Bull are struggling

Valtteri Bottas seems to be struggling behind the wheel of the W12. Photo: Joe Portlock/Getty Images
Valtteri Bottas seems to be struggling behind the wheel of the W12. Photo: Joe Portlock/Getty Images

FP3 continued to expose a significant gulf between times of the supposed team leaders and their number two drivers at both Mercedes and Red Bull. Although it would be unwise to pass judgments based on free practice only, early indications do indicate that Valtteri Bottas is struggling with the W12 while Perez, still new at Red Bull, is yet to figure the car out and match Max Verstappen in terms of single-lap performance.

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Will it carry forward to qualifying? It's hard to say, but the gap between the teammates looks significant at the moment.

#3 The McLaren looks great...in the hands of Lando Norris

McLaren seems to be the team that could do some serious damage up front this Formula 1 season. They have a good baseline, and from whatever has been on display so far, the car has good pace and should be contending at the front of the Formula 1 midfield.

But this is only when Lando Norris is behind the wheel. Daniel Ricciardo is yet to fully get to grips with the car and will need some more time in the middle to exploit the car to the fullest.

#4 Alpine and Aston Martin are slow

Early impressions of both Aston Martin and Alpine F1 Team in their first Formula 1 season are not too encouraging.

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It's hard to pinpoint what's wrong at Alpine. The car just looks slow compared to the rest of the Formula 1 midfield and we're yet to see either driver be able to manhandle it enough to lift them up to a more competitive position.

Aston Martin, on the other hand, seems to be struggling from a lack of grip and balance, as the drivers - Sebastian Vettel in particular - don't quite seem to have the car underneath them. In the tight Formula 1 midfield, we might see these two teams struggling to compete with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari.

#5 Drivers will make the difference in Formula 1

At the front, we have Red Bull and Mercedes neck-and-neck in terms of pace. In the midfield, we are seeing an early pecking order developing, but with the gap being just a tenth or two, it's hard to put them in different categories. It's going to come down to who can pull off that magic lap in the first Formula 1 qualifying session of 2021.

In a grid where all the teams are so closely stacked against each other, it's shaping up to be one of the best seasons in Formula 1 in recent times.

Published 27 Mar 2021, 21:19 IST
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