What the teams said – Friday practice in Bahrain
Hamilton might have topped both sessions but it was far from a dominant performance from the newly crowned world champion. He spent much of his day testing out the Pirelli 2021 tyres before his qualifying runs were hampered by red flags in FP2. The team opted to use up a second set of the soft tyres for both drivers with Hamilton topping the timing sheets and Bottas not too far back. But on a disrupted day, the true pecking order is still somewhat of a mystery.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:29.033, P1; FP2: 1:28.971, P1
"It felt great to get back out on the track, I just love driving this car. Today felt a bit more like a test day though as we didn't get to do a lot of qualifying style laps, instead it was a lot of discovery on next year's tyres. This track works the tyres completely differently compared to the last race in Turkey, it's a night and day difference. Instead of doing a fast outlap to get temperatures into the tyres, you're trying to go slow on the outlap to not put too much temperatures into them and keep them from overheating. I wasn't particularly happy with the balance of the car, but everyone is probably in a similar position as the track was quite slippery and dusty. We definitely got some work overnight to try and improve ahead of tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:29.482, P2; FP2: 1:29.336, P3
"Our day was overall ok, looking at our performance and the general feeling in the car. It was more challenging in the first session and I expect it'll be the same tomorrow because the track temperatures are higher at that time and there's more wind as well. Both sessions were slightly messy with traffic and a few mistakes here and there, so there's certainly more to come. I'm also not fully happy with the balance yet, we've got some work to do there. It's tricky to say where we are competitively as we ran a different programme to everyone else, focusing on the new Pirelli tyres. I think Red Bull are certainly up there, they looked pretty good in FP2. The main challenge in Bahrain is always overheating of the tyres, something we haven't had for a few races, so we need to adapt our different driving style accordingly. So lots of things to learn for tomorrow from today."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We had decided to focus more on the 2021 tyre evaluation than the usual race weekend preparation today. We've not yet had time to go through the data, but we've managed to do what we had planned, so hopefully that will give us some useful learning ahead of next season. In contrast, we're a bit behind compared to where we'd normally like to be regarding the race on Sunday, in part because we've not spent as long as normal tuning the car balance, but also because we've not done as extensive a long run programme as is normal. We've definitely got more to come both on single lap and on the long run as we are not in a great place with the car balance yet, but we've still got a bit of track time tomorrow to work on that."
After spending most of FP1 in testing mode, Verstappen unleashed the true pace of his RB16 in FP2 and looked the pick of the bunch until Hamilton’s late flying lap. But while there is cause for optimism on the Dutchman’s side of the garage, Albon’s mechanics have a long night ahead of them. The Thai driver ran wide through the final corner, lost control through the dust and crashed heavily into the barriers in Second practice. He is okay, but his car definitely isn’t…
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:30.294, P6; FP2: 1:29.318, P2
“I had some test items on the car in FP1 and we didn’t complete quite as many laps as we wanted but the second practice was better. You never have the perfect balance and there are still quite a few things to understand, but in general it has been a positive Friday. Mercedes are quick but that is no surprise and from our side we will just focus on getting the best out of our car and in the race as it can be aggressive on tyres around here. We tried some of the 2021 tyres in both sessions but it is difficult to know which compounds we were running. We were a bit all over the place in terms of grip and balance but that is something Pirelli can look at and it is the point of doing these tests.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:30.302, P7; FP2: 1:30.014, P10
“Straight away from FP1 the car was feeling pretty good and then in FP2 we tried a couple of things that didn’t quite work out. Later in the session I was a bit surprised by the lack of grip on track and the accident was at quite an awkward angle but I’m okay and it’s just one of those things but I’m sorry to the guys in the garage. Throughout the year we’ve suffered with the rear tyres but strangely here it seems to be the fronts so we’ll have to look at that and see how to make them last longer. We also sampled the prototype tyres and swapped between different compounds but they didn’t have a lot of grip so we’ll see how they develop and hopefully they improve.”
Perez looked at home from word go and finished in the top four in both sessions to remain the pick of the midfield runners. With tyre wear proving problematic, and the Mexican so good at managing his Pirelli rubber he seems well placed to extend his lead for P4 in the drivers’ championship here. Stroll had a quieter day by comparison but completed his scheduled programme and will hope to move up through the ranks come qualifying, although matching his sensational pole from last time out might be a step too far.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:30.000, P3; FP2: 1:29.403, P4
“I’m happy with the pace today: it’s an encouraging start, but it’s very clear that the margins are extremely tight – one or two tenths could make a big difference on Saturday. We’ll see how that plays out tomorrow, but I think the most important factor this weekend will be the tyre management. That could make the difference in the really tight battle we’re in because it’s close between ourselves and our rivals. The red flag affected everyone’s long runs in FP2, but we were still able to learn a lot about the tyres. We will go away tonight and look into how we can improve further for tomorrow in qualifying and how the tyre wear can influence strategy in the race.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:30.426, P9; FP2: 1:29.871, P8
“I think today was a good start to the weekend and I’m happy with how the car felt out there. We looked on the pace pretty quickly in FP1 and we were able to improve in the more representative FP2 in the night-time conditions. The running was a bit disrupted today, due to the red flag and the 2021 tyre programme, but we were still able to get a good day’s work done. That’s given us a few things to think about and review tonight to see if we can find further improvements before qualifying tomorrow. As expected, today’s running has shown that managing the tyre wear is going to be an important element of the race strategy, so that could make for an exciting race on Sunday.”
Both drivers were in the thick of the action today, with Gasly frustrated after being held up by a slow moving Bottas and Kvyat accidentally impeding Leclerc. But bar traffic issues, and the same problems with tyre wear suffered by most of the field, it was a good day for the team. They look solidly quick with Gasly in particular impressing, and should be pushing for Q3 spots come qualifying.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:30.049, P5; FP2: 1:29.551, P6
“It’s nice to be back in a bit more normal conditions compared to Istanbul two weeks ago. We had a positive Friday, probably one of our strongest this season and the car felt good straight away since FP1. I think pace-wise we look pretty competitive, but there are still some things we can improve on in terms of car balance to extract even more from the package we have. It looks promising, so we’ll try to find these extra tenths for Qualifying tomorrow.”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:31.020, P17; FP2: 1:29.900, P9
“It was an interesting day, in FP1 I wasn’t too happy with the car balance, but we improved quite well for FP2. I think we understood the direction we needed to take, so it was a positive result. We have a lot of good data for tomorrow to analyse so we can hopefully make another step and improve further. I had the red flag come out during my Soft compound run which was a bit of a shame, nevertheless, the pace felt quite good today. This track is high with tyre degradation, so we will have to understand how to cope with it better than the others.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“Even though we’re close to the end of the season, it didn’t mean there wasn’t anything for us to test today. We came here with some aerodynamic parts that we needed to test and understand, and each team was given two additional sets of 2021 tyres to evaluate for Pirelli. Both free practices were quite busy, as the aim was to have the car on the track almost all of the time. FP1 was more about understanding the 2021 tyres over long runs, and also to sign off and understand some of the new aerodynamic components, so there was less setup work carried out in that session. We reviewed the data and made some changes to the car, and with the track being rear limited, along with an aggressive tyre choice, rear degradation was high, so we needed to address that going into FP2. We started FP2 with a short-run compare with the 2020 vs 2021 tyre, then went on with our normal programme. It’s fair to say the changes we made have improved the car and the performance is looking good, in line with our expectations. With the degradation we have, the long run and the race is going to be tricky, so we need to understand what we need to do to reduce it for the race - that’s going to be the focus tonight.”
Renault were loitering towards the back of the field for much of the day, but Ricciardo chose to focus on the soft compound in FP2 and it paid dividends with the Aussie managing fifth overall. He did burn through two sets of the C4 rubber though, while Ocon tried out the medium compound and thus has more data to go through when strategy choices are made.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:30.384, P8; FP2: 1:30.085, P11
“It’s been a good, first day overall in Bahrain. We had a busy plan for the day with some prototype tyre running in preparation for next year, so it was a different kind of practice day and different conditions to normal here with a bit of rain this morning. We got into our normal programme towards the afternoon, but that was interrupted a bit with the red flags. Our programme was delayed and disrupted but, other than that, we look quick and that’s a good sign for tomorrow. Our high fuel runs also looked decent and I think we’re well prepared for the rest of the weekend.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:30.508, P10; FP2: 1:29.462, P5
“It’s really nice to be driving in warm conditions, so I’m very happy. Our afternoon session wasn’t anything spectacular but, in the evening, we made some adjustments and we’re in a much better place, so I’d say we’re there or thereabouts. It will be tight tomorrow in qualifying. The tyres are going to get pretty chewed up around here, so a two-stop is likely and that would be the first one in the dry we’ve seen in a while. We did some race simulations in Free Practice 2 and we’re looking fairly solid.”
Ciaron Pilbeam, Chief Race Engineer
“It was unusually cool in Bahrain, especially for Free Practice 1, which, with the time of day, often takes place under scorching conditions. But, with the weather front overnight, which brought some rain, the conditions throughout the day remained cool; similar to what we normally experience in the evening in Sakhir. Both sessions were more busy than usual with the mandatory 2021 tyre testing, and FP2 was interrupted by a couple of red flags, but we improved throughout the day and by Free Practice 2 both drivers felt more comfortable in the car on both low and high fuel runs. As normal, there’s more to come, but we’re pleased with today’s practice and we look forward to the remainder of the weekend.”
It was an odd day for McLaren, who like many teams focussed on gathering aero data ahead of setting representative lap times. Norris was the workhorse for the team in FP1, running flow-vis for much of the session which left Sainz to go for a late run and bag an impressive fourth. Roll on FP2 and Norris was allowed a cleaner run to come home in the top 10 but exactly where they are compared to their rivals is still an unknown.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:30.018, P4; FP2: 1:30.271, P13
“We expect another tight battle again this weekend with our main competitors, but it’s impossible to say who has the edge from today’s running. In terms of degradation, it’s a bit of a special weekend because I don’t think anyone’s going to be capable of doing a one-stop on Sunday, so we are up for interesting strategies during the race.
“Today was a good Friday in general, with lots of testing and a good amount of laps in both sessions. All three compounds are working well, and all three could be used in the race. I had to abort my flying lap on the soft compound due to the red flag, but it was coming together nicely and I think we have a decent base line to fine-tune tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:31.392, P18; FP2: 1:29.841, P7
“Tricky day, but at the same time one where I think we gathered a lot of data and got a good understanding of the car. We got through all the planning and the running that we wanted to. It wasn't the easiest or the most straightforward day, but we’ve got good info, so it’s down to tonight and FP3 to put it all together and make some improvements going into qualifying.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“Our double-header in Bahrain began with a very busy Friday. The job list for the first day of practice contained a lot of entries: we had aerodynamic test items, tyres for 2021, plus the usual set-up optimisation and investigation of the tyres for the race. This season, the compounds are one step softer than last year, which creates some interesting implications for race strategy.
“We’re happy that we could complete our programme, despite the red flag interruptions in FP2. We have a lot of information to study overnight. There’s some pretty interesting variables and we need to put it all together to be ready for qualifying and the race, where we’ll have to be at our best to compete for good points.”
Vettel struggled with vibrations with his tyres on a difficult day for the Scuderia, winding up outside the top 10 in both sessions. Leclerc looked more comfortable from the off but did spin in FP1 before running wide in the evening session to avoid a slow moving AlphaTauri. All in all there is work to do if the team want to get into the midst of that midfield battle.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:30.628, P12; FP2: 1:30.110, P12
“Today in the first session the sun was still up while in the second one it was night time, however, maybe because of the time of year, there was definitely less difference between the sessions compared to the previous years. I think that the Sakhir track does not suit us as well as it has done in the past, but we still have a little bit to improve and work on, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.
"Looking ahead to Sunday, we know the track is tough on tyres and so it is difficult to make them last, but it will be the same for everybody. It is yet not clear which tyres will work best, and therefore how many stops we will need. But first we must focus on quali and then we will see for the race. While it’s true the point are only given out at the end of the race, the higher up the grid you start, the better your chances, as you have more options in terms of strategy and tyre management.”
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:30.589, P11; FP2: 1:30.407, P14
"It’s been a difficult first day. I was expecting to do a bit better because traditionally this is has been very strong track for the team in the past few years, but today, we seemed to struggle quite a bit more. But we are usually pretty good at fixing the issues overnight, so hopefully we’ll come back stronger tomorrow.
"I think it’s pretty clear what we need to do to improve. It’s just the balance really, as through the corners it’s very tricky and it’s quite difficult to manage the car and I made a few mistakes. The times are all extremely close, so any gains we make can result in a big difference."
Grosjean had the biggest moment in FP1, sliding out of Turn 5 and spinning across the gravel. His tyres were wrecked, but fortunately he kept out of the barriers. The Frenchman’s day didn’t improve from there, with traffic and tyre wear causing him issues. Magnussen had a quieter day, but couldn’t extract much pace from the VF-20.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:30.832, P14; FP2: 1:31.119, P19
“I was a bit surprised this morning when I woke up and saw the rain. The positive is the track wasn’t too hot in FP1 and therefore we could work a bit closer to what the race will be like. This track is cool though. It’s tough on tyres, there’s quite a bit of degradation – you really have to manage them. It also produces some good racing. This track is one of the easiest of the year to overtake at, so on that aspect it’s always cool racing. We’ve really been working on getting the car set up for the race.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:30.854, P15; FP2: 1:30.849, P16
“It wasn’t quite wet to start the day, but it was raining – certainly a little bit unusual around here. Let’s see if we get some wet weather, that would be interesting, but I don’t think there’s a good chance of it happening. Because we’ve been here many times, we’re maybe not experimenting as much as we have been on some of the other recent tracks because they were new. We’ve focused a little more on the balance of the car and general set-up work. There’s maybe a little less grip than last year but overall, I think things have been more-or-less as we expected coming here.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It wasn’t a bad day for us – we did most of our runs and tested the new prototype tyres to see what’s coming next year. We got a little bit of feeling on that one. In FP2, well the red flags came out and we didn’t get to do anything on the soft tyres – we couldn’t get a good lap in. Every weekend is more or less the same now. Like always, we’re just trying to get the best out of what we’ve got. We’ll try to get at least one car into Q2 tomorrow.”
Kubica took over from Raikkonen for FP1 and acquitted himself well, feeding back plenty of data for the team. But other than that it was a straightforward day for Alfa Romeo who look to have dropped back slightly after a stronger showing at the last couple of races.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP2: 1:30.928, P17
“Of course I only had one session today, but we still had the time to do a good job. The car felt ok in FP2, which is effectively the most representative session ahead of qualifying, but as always there will be a lot to improve overnight. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow, it will be close.”
Robert Kubica – FP1: 1:30.732, P13
“It’s been quite a while since the last time I was in the car, as in the meantime I have been driving in DTM, so it was crucial to get the feeling for the car and the confidence straight away. It went well, I got back in the way of driving these cars quickly and I felt quite at ease. It was a good session overall, we completed the full programme so we are happy with how the day went. It’s nice to be back in the car and work with the team: I had some clear indications for the engineers and there was a lot of information I could give the team. Hopefully we can make the most of the weekend like we did in some of the last few races and take the opportunities we can get.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:30.896, P16; FP2: 1:30.627, P15
“It’s been a straightforward Friday, like you always want, and we were able to do everything we had planned. Of course there is always a margin for improvement, but that’s what we are going to do tonight when we look at the data and try to make the right set-up changes for tomorrow. The objective is to make it to Q2: it’s going to be a close fight and we’ll need to put the perfect lap together to be ahead of our closest rivals.”
Nissany was in the cockpit in FP1, with Russell an interested spectator. The youngster did well and handed back an intact FW43 which is always a good start. Roll on the evening session and interestingly the lack of running seemed to hamper Russell, who seemed to struggle more than his team mate. Could this be the weekend Latifi finally gets the better of Russell in qualifying?
George Russell – FP2: 1:31.636, P20
"It was nice to get back out on track today under the lights as it is always pretty spectacular, so I enjoyed it. It hurt us slightly missing FP1, as it puts you on the back foot and then with those red flags from Alex’s crash and the appearance from the dog, it didn’t make it the easiest session. It affected my low fuel run on the soft tyre as I was on the out-lap both times the session got red flagged. However, we have been in this position before and we know what to do. It will be a long evening into the early hours of tomorrow, and then wake up tomorrow and go and have some fun. Let’s see what we can do."
Roy Nissany - FP1: 1:32.801, P20
"It was a very positive session once again, and a challenging one in comparison to my last FP1 outing at Monza. We have stepped up in terms of development and it feels great as always to be working with the team, to be in the car and a part of the progress that Williams is making. It is an incredible experience putting down the results, and I am looking forward to more action at the test in Abu Dhabi."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:38.508, P11; FP2: 1:30.973, P18
"It is nice to be back driving in some warm weather, but it was a tricky day. This track is notoriously difficult on the tyres, with very high degradation. FP1 isn’t the most representative session, the ones that matter are in the evening time, so FP2 was a bit more important. We got extra running with the new 2021 tyres which was good to get a feel on them. We have some things to sort out, we need to fine tune the balance on the low fuel, and high fuel was very disruptive with the red flags. It is clearly going to be difficult to manage those tyres.
"The tyre degradation and race management has been my stronger suit this year and allowed me to win the feature race in F2 here last year. Hopefully that plays to our strengths, but we still have a lot to improve before we can be confident about that."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Although there was some overnight and morning rain, we were able to complete the programmes as intended. Roy did an excellent job and completed all of his test items, providing some very useful feedback, including on the new 2021 Pirelli tyres. FP2 was fully dry but interrupted by several red flags, which disrupted our low fuel running and delayed the high fuel runs. Nonetheless, we were able to gather some useful tyre data, which will help guide the car set-ups for the rest of this weekend and also into next year.
"The weather tomorrow looks similar to today and so FP3 may be more valuable than it traditionally is at the events where we race in the evenings. We will wait and see how hot the track is tomorrow afternoon before finalising the FP3 run plan. We have got a lot of work to get through tonight, but we are confident that we can improve the performance of the car as a result and can produce useful test programmes to suit whatever weather conditions that we encounter."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"In comparison to last season, this was a more aggressive nomination by bringing the compounds in the middle of the range to Bahrain, with the softest choice being the C4 compound this year. It was quite a busy couple of sessions today, with each car running two sets of our 2021 tyres in C3 compound during both FP1 and FP2, allowing both us and the teams to collect plenty of data on new and used examples of these tyres. Now we have plenty of information to analyse before trying these 2021 tyres again in Abu Dhabi. Coming back to Bahrain this weekend, compared to the usual calendar slot earlier in the year, we had quite similar conditions in FP1 and FP2: with track temperatures around 26 degrees in both sessions. This gave teams the chance to test the tyres in conditions more similar to the race, and perhaps concentrate more on race pace. All the tyres performed in line with expectations today, considering also that the track was quite slippery. The soft compound showed no graining, but as is usual in Bahrain, it will be particularly crucial to manage the rear tyres to prevent them overheating."