FP1: Verstappen quickest in first practice in Bahrain as 2021 season gets up and running
Red Bull's Max Verstappen returned to the top of the timesheets in the first FP1 session of the season, lapping 0.298s faster than Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Friday sessions having been shortened for 2021, from 90 minutes down to an hour, and the first FP1 of the year was an action-packed session that saw a flurry of late soft-tyred laps from the field. Verstappen put his Red Bull fastest, just as he did in pre-season testing, but admitted he left something on the table with a mistake on his flying lap of 1m31.394s - though it was still quick enough to knock Bottas down to second.
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The Finn was followed by McLaren's Lando Norris (0.5s off the pace) and reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in fourth. Hamilton was one of a number of drivers to solely use soft tyres in this session.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc finished fifth fastest, 0.599s off the pace and 0.078s ahead of Red Bull's new driver Sergio Perez. Leclerc's new team mate at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, finished eighth as Pierre Gasly made it to seventh place for AlphaTauri.
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FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:31.394|
|2 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.298s|
|3 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+0.503s|
|4 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.527s|
|5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.599s|
Gasly's new team mate Yuki Tsunoda was 14th, but was incensed by traffic hampering one of his late flying efforts.
Ninth-place Daniel Ricciardo finished half a second off third place Norris in his first session with McLaren, but was ahead of the Alfa Romeo pair, showing just how tight the midfield battle is this season. Tenth-place Antonio Giovinazzi was faster than veteran team mate Kimi Raikkonen (11th) in that intra-team battle.
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Aston Martin followed the Alfa Romeos, with Sebastian Vettel 12th as he gets to grips with his new team and car, finishing just under a tenth faster than team mate Lance Stroll.
The Alpines lined up 15th and 16th, having spent the first half of the session on hard tyres. Returnee Fernando Alonso finished behind his team mate Esteban Ocon.
Williams' George Russell finished 17th, ahead of P18 Nicholas Latifi with the iconic British squad carrying a tribute to the late, great Murray Walker on their FW43Bs' halos.
And finally, the two rookies of Haas rounded out the standings, Mick Schumacher finishing 19th and just under half a second ahead of Nikita Mazepin – 3.581s off top spot.
The sun will set and temperatures will drop for FP2 this afternoon, but who will rise to the challenge? Follow live coverage on F1.com and stay tuned for the latest news and reaction from the first Grand Prix weekend of the season.