Morning report: Perez quickest ahead of Leclerc midway through final day of testing
Sergio Perez’s final outing for Red Bull at 2021 pre-season testing was a good one, with the Mexican beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to lead the times going into the Sunday lunch break at the Bahrain International Circuit.
In the final hour of running for the first session of the day, Perez bolted on a set of C4 soft tyres, to set the fastest lap of pre-season testing so far in the Red Bull RB16B, a 1m 30.187s – with the Mexican looking more confident than he had done on Saturday in the car, when he’d endured a number of off-track moments. The only downside for Perez on his last day in the car was a relatively low lap count, as he managed just 47 laps around Bahrain.
Perez’s session-leading lap pipped a promising early effort from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who spent much of the morning with the fastest time in his Ferrari SF21, the Monegasque ending up with a C3-shod best lap of 1m 30.486s in P2.
Lando Norris continued McLaren’s strong opening to 2021, going third on the C3 tyre, a shade less than half a second shy of Perez – with McLaren’s issue-free pre-season testing continuing. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly wound up P4, ahead of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon – while Haas’ Mick Schumacher continued his rookie preparations, winding up P6, 1.866s off the pace with his C3 effort and with 76 laps completed.
Valtteri Bottas continued to not look quite at home in the Mercedes W12, understeering off track twice at Turn 13 throughout the morning, before eventually ending up seventh – but at least with a healthy 80 laps under his belt.
On his very first outing in the Williams FW43B, Russell lapped steadily, and seemingly without shooting for any headline-grabbing times, as he finished P8 – his best lap set on the C2 tyre.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, continued his team’s solid, consistent run in this test, completing the most laps of the morning with 91. He finished P9, ahead of the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, who appeared to have focused on long-run pace, as he ended up, like Raikkonen, over five seconds off the pace.
So that was the order halfway through the final day of this three-day 2021 pre-season test. All the morning session’s drivers bar Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen and Williams’ Russell have now reached the end of their testing experience, and will next see action when the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend gets under way on March 26.
For the others, however, a crucial afternoon session in more representative, cooler conditions awaits – where we may, finally, get a concrete sense of how the order is shaping up ahead of the start of the 2021 season.