Max Verstappen topped the timesheets in both free practice sessions on the first day of the 2021 season in Bahrain. The Red Bull looks great in the hands of Verstappen, but the young Dutchman is not getting carried away by the form of his latest challenger.
When questioned how the first day of the 2021 season went, Max Verstappen replied he was happy but didn't rule out a Mercedes surprise either.
At the end of FP2, Max Verstappen said:
“I was really happy but tomorrow is again a different day, even more windy, which with these cars is quite more tricky, so again we’ll have to try and be on it, but again, a good start to the weekend.
The qualifying session of the first weekend is where teams show their true pace. Keeping this in mind, Max Verstappen said:
“I was also really [happy] before, but of course, now we have to show what we can do in qualifying."
Teams lost a chunk of their time during the pre-season test at Bahrain two weeks ago. Heavy winds and sandstorms caused unexpected delays. Race Day is expected to have similar conditions. Forecasts suggest temperatures of around 38 degrees and wind speeds of a mind-boggling 50km/h. Wind speeds often affect the aero parts of the car and could cause problems for the drivers.
Speaking about the challenges of such conditions, Max Verstappen said:
"Of course, with the heat, it’s not easy to find a really good balance around the whole lap. I think it’s a positive day. There are still things to look into what we can look better for tomorrow, but again, also tomorrow, I think it’s going to be even windier so that will be even more difficult to drive. That’s the same for everyone, so we’ll see what happens."
Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton for the title?
Mercedes and Red Bull were neck and neck throughout the free practice sessions, with neither team was able to establish any significant advantage over the other.
In the long runs, Mercedes held a slight edge over Red Bull but it's not substantial and ultimately it could come down to the drivers' race management abilities. Lewis Hamilton is notoriously easy on his tires and could edge out Max Verstappen. However, the Dutchman looks to be quicker over a single lap and could pull away from Hamilton.