What the teams said – Friday in Bahrain
Red Bull opted not to run the soft compound tyre in the unrepresentative early afternoon session, instead saving the red-marked rubber for the cooler evening conditions. It was a decision that paid dividends, with Verstappen topping the timing sheets and looking comfortable in doing so. Perez couldn’t quite match his team mate but does tend to start slowly on a Friday, so he will be keen to get up to the sharp end of the grid come qualifying.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.742, P5; FP2: 1:31.936, P1
“The car felt good today, testing here last week means we've all started in a good place. We had quite a straightforward and smooth day so I’m pretty happy, we also tried a few things on the car in each session and they seemed to work well. You can see that Ferrari are pushing hard and are very close so that’s exciting. Looking ahead, we’ll have to wait and see with different teams' engine modes, no one is in quali spec yet so I think everyone still has a lot more to give. It’s good to see the teams are all closer together, in general that’s what everyone wants and I think over time teams will get even closer together.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:35.050, P10; FP2: 1:32.958, P7
“It’s nice to be back out on track for a new season. We have some work to do overnight to find a good compromise with the set up. We tried some different settings across the two cars, so I think we have good data to look at and then we can pick out the best bits for qualifying tomorrow. We are learning a lot about the tyre degradation and overall, there is some work to do but I am hopeful we will have a positive day tomorrow. FP2 will be the most useful session before qualifying because the conditions should be similar and I think it will be interesting to see where everyone is come Saturday evening. The pack is really close and I think the race will be even tighter so there will be some good racing all around.”
Second and third in both sessions was a solid return for the Scuderia, who were many people’s pick of the bunch from testing. Leclerc has history here, and looked very strong from the off, the only man to get within half a second of the pace-setting Red Bull. As for Sainz, he admitted to a scruffy first lap on the softs and had to bolt on a second set in order to grab third. Both drivers look in with a shout of pole tomorrow on this form.
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:34.557, P2; FP2: 1:32.023, P2
"Our first two sessions have gone rather well, without any issues. We seem to be quite competitive, but we have to keep in mind that it is still early to draw any conclusions.
"I am quite confident in the car and it felt good overall. We tested many things and worked on the car a lot since the first session. We made good progress and have to keep pushing to find small details ahead of qualifying tomorrow."
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:34.611, P3; FP2: 1:32.520, P3
"FP1 went well, the feeling with the car was good and an improvement from testing. Unfortunately, in FP2 this good feeling went away a bit, we didn’t nail the set-up and I struggled to put a clean lap together.
"We definitely need to have a close look at that tonight. I’m confident we can get back to the feeling from this morning and we’ll be ready for qualifying."
Mercedes were a big question mark after testing, and two practice sessions later, their form is still an unknown. Hamilton was unable to extract the best from the W13 thanks to a DRS malfunction, and he also complained about brake issues in the evening session. Russell had a cleaner hour under the lights, but didn’t look on the pace of either of the Ferrari cars or Red Bull ahead. Are they sandbagging? If so they are cutting it very fine to reveal their true hand.
Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:34.943, P7; FP2: 1:33.144, P9
"In the second session, my front two discs were at different temperatures, the left one running cooler and the right one coming up in temperature, so when hitting the brakes the right one was pulling the steering. It meant you didn’t get the laps in so that wasn’t great but it’s not a massive issue and we can fix it.
"The bouncing we’re experiencing is losing us downforce compared to the others which is making it much harder out there. We’re not bluffing like people assume we are but we’ll work as hard as we can to get through it and do what we can. At the moment, we’re not going to be in the race for the win here, Red Bull are 0.8/0.9secs ahead and Ferrari are half a second ahead so we’re scrapping with whoever is behind them. I’m still calm, just trying to be the best I can be and get the best out of the car. It’s not ideal but we’ll pull together as a team to try and fix it."
George Russell - FP1: 1:34.629, P4; FP2: 1:32.529, P4
"It’s all about lap time and we’re certainly not where we want to be. We made progress on solving some of our issues but the pace isn’t there at the moment. We need to go over the data tonight to understand where we’re struggling with the car. We’ve got lots of work ahead of us to get the car where we want it but if any team can, we can. It was windier today than last week, you’re running at different times of the day, plus we’re trying lots of things on the car to improve performance, so there’s so many factors for us to weigh up. We are truly throwing everything at it to unlock the performance which we think is there but we’re struggling to tap into at the moment. We need to go away, do our analysis and make the best of this situation."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Our first session made use of the fact that we had two cars for the first time this year and chose to run them in different specifications. That was a useful test and we got a clear read on which setup and floor specification was best for the bouncing. However, we’re still struggling to get the rear of the car much lower and trying to do that gave the drivers a fairly bumpy time of it in the second session. In terms of pace, we have a significant gap to Ferrari and Red Bull, especially Max on the long run. There are some relatively easy gains we might be able to make overnight with the balance but we’re not going to find more than a few tenths. More important is that we keep learning as we don’t seem to have understood the bouncing as well as some of the others, it may also be that we’re lacking a bit of car pace. So, we’re expecting a tough couple of days where we need to focus on damage limitation but also continuing to experiment to see if we can find a better place to run the car."
Ricciardo missed testing last week after catching Covid-19, so needed plenty of time in the car to get back up to speed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be as his car sprung a leak in FP2 that sidelined the Aussie for much of the session. As for Norris, he was able to complete his programme which was a positive after the team’s brake issues from testing, but it very much remains to be seen how much pace is in the MCL36.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:36.402, P17; FP2: 1:34.166, P18
“It’s good being back in the car and back out on track but we didn’t have the smoothest day. Unfortunately, we missed out on some running this evening, so we’ve got our work cut out tonight. We’ve also got some pace to find, but it’s only day one. We’ll keep at it, study the data tonight and try to make up for it tomorrow morning, before qualifying.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:36.304, P16; FP2: 1:33.280, P11
“Today was always going to be a tough day, trying to make up for the lack of long running that we missed out on last week at the test. We stuck to our run plan and can take some positives from the day, but there’s a lot of work to do to be competitive. That will be our aim overnight, we’ll go and analyse the data, work out where we can improve and do what we can to get the car in a better place for tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“After today, it looks like we have some work to do from a performance point of view, and we will do that overnight, trying to be as ready as possible for qualifying and the race. We needed to stop Daniel a little early this evening to investigate a water leak. This is nothing too serious and will be fixed for the remainder of the weekend. Despite this, today we could achieve pretty much all the programme we had planned. Following the issues we had at the test, today we made a step forward with our brake cooling, thanks to rapid work done at the factory to deliver new parts.”
Gasly topped the timing sheets in FP1, although he did run the soft compound tyre to do so in contrast to the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, who ran mediums for their flying laps. Roll on FP2 and the Frenchman dropped down the order, but it was his team mate who provided the headlines second time around. First Tsunoda tangled with Leclerc, potentially blocking the Monegasque in a moment deemed worthy of a second look by the stewards. He was later called back to explain a moment with Stroll at the end of the session, which had cost the AlphaTauri man a chunk of front wing. A reprimand was handed out for the first incident – the second was deemed not his fault.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:34.193, P1; FP2: 1:33.621, P13
“We’ve had two very different sessions today; we topped the timings in FP1 and then in the second session we were P13, so two very contrasting outcomes. I think purely for us the hotter track conditions helped, the car really seemed to click, but tonight we struggled massively in the cold. We need to look through everything and understand what happened, especially as qualifying and the race are both at night here in Bahrain. I think our long run pace was slightly better than the shorter runs, but still we’ve got a lot of work to do to fully understand our performance in these conditions.”
Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:35.028, P9; FP2: 1:33.789, P14
“We started quite well today with FP1, but in the second session we started to struggle a bit. We’ll have to work hard tonight to see what the limitations were today and see how we can improve for tomorrow. We’ve made a big step up after the tests and I’m much more comfortable in the car, but we’ve still got a couple of tenths to find and then I hope we’ll be closer to that top group. We’ve got one practice session left so we’ve still got to time to make some improvements ahead of qualifying.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“We hit the ground running in FP1 but then had mixed fortunes going into FP2, where we were not able to follow the changing track conditions and both cars suffered with a lack of grip and difficult balance. Not only did we struggle more, it also appeared other teams made quite a step up in performance between FP1 and FP2, which emphasised the gap. Fundamentally there isn’t anything wrong with the car, as we showed in FP1, so we have a lot of work ahead of us tonight to ensure we understand the FP2 performance and make the relevant changes to the car for tomorrow. This is particularly important for qualifying, as the track temperature will be similar to this evening.”
Ocon had the most dramatic moment of the day when he lost some of his bodywork in FP1, littering the main straight with debris and bringing out the red flags. He was able to drive back to the pits which the innards of his car on display, the team later confirming he was trying an upgraded part. Once he had a new sidepod bolted on, he was able to continue, but didn’t quite have as much pace as his team mate – especially under the lights.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:35.151, P12; FP2: 1:33.360, P12
“It was the first proper Friday of the year, where we really got to see all the other cars on track. From what we have seen today, it looks very tight in the midfield and for us it was another day of learning and working through our programme. The issue with the loose sidepod early in FP1 slightly delayed our run plan but was quickly addressed. Despite that, it was a solid day for the team on track as we keep learning more and more about this new car. Tomorrow, we’ll really see everyone’s true pace and I’m looking forward to giving it my best in Qualifying.”
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:35.000, P8; FP2: 1:32.877, P5
“It was a good day for us today and we completed our programme efficiently. It was a lot cooler today than last week at testing, so we tried to adapt to these different conditions and learn how the tyres work at these temperatures. Obviously some tweaks are still needed on the setup of the car. We’ll look at this all tonight and digest all of our information. There are many questions left for us to answer tomorrow, but I think overall it was a positive day for us.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It’s been a sensible and steady Practice day for us in Bahrain. It’s good to be back at a Grand Prix weekend preparing to race and nice to be back in the routine. Conditions here are a little different to testing last week. It’s cooler and it seems that the tyres are behaving themselves better. Today, we ran the Softs and Mediums, working through some balance and set-up options in FP1 and then focusing on tyre work in FP2. Other than the loose sidepod on Esteban’s car, which we’ve identified and rectified to avoid a repeat, we’ve not had any problems with the cars. Of course, we have some work to do such as improving traction and some low-speed balance but, in general, both drivers are happy and are looking forward to taking on the rest of the weekend.”
A late driver change down at Aston Martin, with Vettel catching Covid and Hulkenberg parachuted in as his replacement. The super-sub did a good job, keeping the car in one piece and managing a decent haul of laps as he plays catch up, having never driven these 2022 cars. Stroll likewise was having a solid day until tangling with Tsunoda late on in FP2, which the stewards decided to have a look at. They handed the Canadian a reprimand for that incident.
Nico Hulkenberg – FP1: 1:35.815, P14; FP2: 1:34.061, P17
“I think today was promising for me: it was all about getting up to speed with the car. I spoke to Sebastian yesterday and he gave me his feedback and insight, so it is always good to have that preparation before jumping into the car. However, I was surprised by how different it was, the feel of the tyre, in particular, and the braking process. I am happy with my feeling in the car, though, and how I was able to build on every run to feel more and more comfortable. There is always room for more and we will keep working to make progress. This weekend will be a good challenge and I will enjoy every lap in the car.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:34.814, P6; FP2: 1:33.958, P16
“I think there is some real excitement in the paddock this weekend because it is the first race with these new regulations. It is very tough to tell where everyone stands and we will not truly find out until qualifying tomorrow. For us, today was about continuing to learn about the car. We had some solid days in pre-season testing, but there is always more to learn so every lap is valuable. I do not think our times today were representative: I ran wide at Turn 11 on my Soft tyre run, but I am happy with our overall progress. I am looking forward to fighting for the best possible grid position tomorrow. I also want to say that Nico did a good job today after a late call-up, it is not easy to jump back in after time away.”
It was a mixed bag for Haas on Friday. They were another team to concentrate on longer runs in FP1, not using the soft tyres and thus propping up the leaderboard (with Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas not setting a time). But in the second practice session, the car came alive under the lights, with both drivers winding up in the top 10. Is this a portent of things to come? After a tricky 2021 towards the back of the field, it’s certainly a much better start for the American outfit.
Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:36.536, P18; FP2: 1:33.085, P8
“It was overall very positive – we made good steps at the right moment. Now it’s just about trying to fine-tune what we have and then I think the package is there to be used. We’ve done quite a few long runs which seem to be positive and hopefully that will be the case on Sunday as well. It’s only FP2 but it does feel good to be in the top 10.”
Kevin Magnussen – FP1: 1:36.804, P19; FP2: 1:33.183, P10
“The car has been feeling good all day again, like last week. In FP1 we were focusing a little more on race set-up and feeling, we weren’t trying to set a lap time. In FP2, we did a qualifying sim – not fully going for it – and that looked better on timings, but I think it was the long run that I was really encouraged by. It was so consistent, lap times were really strong, and I’m still super excited.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a good day today. Surprisingly there were no issues with the car, no gremlins, nothing. That means the team did a fantastic job over the last week from testing to now – it was relentless work. For FP1 and FP2 we were out there, and we are where we actually want to be. We just need to take it now to qualifying tomorrow with the same pace and reliability, as well as for the race.”
Bottas didn’t have an ideal start to the day, mechanical issues derailing his opening session where he managed just two laps. He fared much better once the sun went down, and not just in the lap charts either. Sixth for the Alfa Romeo was eye-catching, but can he keep that pace up when it counts tomorrow? As for Zhou, he had a solid opening day, keeping out of trouble and getting a good haul of laps under his belt.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: No time set, P20; FP2: 1:32.951, P6
“We recovered strongly from FP1, ending the day with an important session and plenty of laps, so I can say we saved the day. There’s still lots to improve, like for everyone else so early in the season, but you can definitely tell the potential is there: in the running we did in the evening session, the car felt really nice, especially on high fuel. It feels we’re not far off where we want to be, which is really positive. It will be interesting to see how it will be tomorrow, in qualifying, when everyone puts out everything they’ve got: now, however, it’s time to look at the data we collected together with Zhou and the team and learn from it.”
Zhou Guanyu - FP1: 1:35.053, P11; FP2: 1:33.953, P15
“It was a good day to start the season, all went very smoothly and, at least on my side, according to our programme. The car felt comfortable, although there are, of course, still a few things we need to improve. All feels still quite new to me and there’s still something to explore before qualifying tomorrow. FP1 was quite tricky as the track conditions were challenging, but already in FP2 the evolution made it easier. What really mattered, however, was doing all we had on our plan for the day. It’s a promising start for the weekend and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Williams quietly got on with their programme on Friday, clocking up the miles and keeping well clear of any incidents. They didn’t display much in terms of pace, but could well still be keeping their powder dry, so to speak. The good news is both drivers have gelled, with Albon slipping seamlessly into the team after a year on the sidelines.
Nicholas Latifi – FP1: 1:35.644, P13; FP2: 1:34.486, P19
“It’s clear we’re not where we want to be and we know the limitations that are holding us back. We’re still building confidence with each lap, each session and each new set of tyres and working to understand exactly how the car needs to be set up to be driven fastest.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:35.923, P15; FP2: 1:34.735, P20
“It’s been good to get back out on track today and do some running in conditions that are more representative of those we’ll be racing in. I think we’re all aware that the car felt better in Barcelona. Historically Bahrain is a track that we struggle with and the wind, sand and heat doesn’t help, but we’re understanding the limitations and adapting our driving style to cope with the challenges. The team have a strong direction that we’re pushing for and we’re all very motivated, so I think we’re making progress.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“We have struggled a bit for pace today. From testing for an entire day with only 10 cars on the track to two one-hour sessions with the entire field on track is a big change and so we used today to check the two cars and to get both drivers accustomed to this wind direction. We did get through our programme, with only a minor radio issue for Alex losing us time. The conditions this evening were close to what we are expecting for qualifying and so it was a good opportunity to get the tyres into a good window. We didn’t quite get it right today, so there is more to come tomorrow.”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
"Conditions in the key FP2 session were quite cool, while the race will probably take place in warmer temperatures. The performance gaps between the compounds are definitely bigger than the targets agreed and it will be interesting to see what effect this has on strategy, when it comes to deciding whether to use the soft or the medium tyre to start the race. We saw no graining in the cool conditions of FP2, despite the abrasive surface in Bahrain. Although they had a brand new package, the teams carried out their usual run plans this evening, with performance runs at the beginning of FP2 before concentrating on long runs in the final part. The FP2 lap times so far look impressive, with the cars only around 1.2 seconds off the equivalent times from the same session last season – when they had a compound that was one step softer than this year."