The drivers and teams report back on all the action from Friday practice at the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019...
What the teams said - Friday in Bahrain
That was the sort of performance that was expected after the team’s dominance in pre-season testing. Finishing one–two in both sessions, it was refreshing to see Leclerc truly mixing it with his team mate, beating him by two-tenths in FP1 before Vettel returned the favour in second practice. There was one brief moment of concern when Vettel emerged from a cloud of smoke having spun his SF90, but a collective sigh of relief followed when it was clear both the German and his car were in one piece.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:30.617, P2; FP2: 1:28.846, P1
“The car is not yet where it was in Barcelona. Certainly, it’s better today than in Australia. It was a better day overall, but we still need to pick up the pace for tomorrow. I am not entirely happy. It has been quite a tricky day because the track was very slippery and it was difficult to always extract the best from the tyres. We were on a different strategy compared to other drivers and teams, that’s why for tomorrow we still need to improve. I think we have some more potential in the car that we have to unleash for qualifying.”
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:30.354, P1; FP2: 1:28.881, P1
“I think it was a good Friday and balance wise I think we are definitely looking better than in Australia. Having said that, it’s better to keep our feet on the ground. I’m pretty sure our rivals didn’t show their real pace today, so tomorrow will not be an easy day for sure. Overall I’m satisfied as we were able to run our full programme, including some fast laps in the second session, as FP3 will not be that representative because of the temperatures. I felt more comfortable in the car lap after lap. Now it’s all about putting everything together tomorrow.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
“Today we concentrated mainly on the problems we had in Australia, running a programme aimed at checking if the measures we introduced had fixed them. That’s why I think it’s difficult to compare our performance to our competitors today. I think we are in better shape than in Australia. However, I still think our rivals are very strong and that the performance levels in qualifying and the race will be very close.”
After their blistering start to the season, it was a quieter day down at Mercedes. They seemed genuinely off the pace of their Ferrari rivals, but the good news was that Bottas picked up where he left off in Melbourne and looks the most likely threat for breaking the Scuderia dominance. Hamilton struggled with the balance of his W10 and will have some homework to do overnight – although the pole master can never be discounted from pulling something special out of the bag in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:31.601, P4; FP2: 1:29.449, P3
"It's hard work out there for everyone; FP1 is incredibly hot, the track is at 50 degrees, so everyone is struggling with the tyres. The Ferraris have been quick from the get-go and picked up more pace from there, so it's completely different to what we've seen in Melbourne. We had some issues with the balance of the car, but we've made improvements for FP2. At the moment it looks like the Ferraris are ahead, so we have to keep our heads down, keep working, analyse things tonight and try and come back stronger tomorrow. I think as we get to qualifying, everything will get a little bit closer, but it is going to be a tough battle."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:31.328, P3; FP2: 1:29.557, P4
"FP1 is always a bit difficult in Bahrain because the track is still a bit dusty and the track temperatures are very high, much higher than they are in qualifying and the race. The car balance didn't feel great in the first session, but we made some changes in between the session and the car felt much better in FP2. It looks like it's going to be very close between us and Ferrari, they are clearly faster around here than they were in Melbourne. So we will have some work to do to improve the set up of our car and I personally also have room for improvement left. It looks like it will be a hard fight tomorrow, which should make qualifying very exciting."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We've had two solid sessions here without any real issues. The first session is always a bit hot and it does affect the balance of the car as you get more rear overheating and oversteer. Both drivers were happier with the car when we got into the second session, picking up grip at both ends on the cooler track. However it's quite hard to work out where we stand today. It certainly seems like we don't have the advantage we had in Melbourne and also that Ferrari have made a good step forwards. Through the corners we had a decent balance on a single lap and the apex speeds look pretty good compared to our competitors. Ferrari are clearly quick on the straights here but it may be that they are running their power unit a little bit harder than we were today; we'll find out tomorrow. There's plenty we can work on overnight to try and find a bit more speed, especially for the long runs which had more degradation than we'd like - although that's almost always the case at this track. Overall it looks like it should be an exciting qualifying and race and certainly a difficult one to know who's going to come out on top."
Verstappen was quick enough around the Bahrain International Circuit to suggest he will once again be in the thick of the action come race day. He was pipped by Hulkenberg in second practice, but as Red Bull were running their qualifying simulations out of sync with the others, the track hadn’t evolved as fully. There is slightly more concern on Gasly’s side of the garage. He was close enough to Verstappen in FP1, but well off the pace under the lights. Can he get to grips with his RB15 tomorrow to make it to Q3?
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:31.673, P5; FP2: 1:29.725, P6
“Today was okay but it could have been better. On the medium tyre we look pretty competitive and I should have been fastest on my first short run but I had a little issue at the last corner which lost me two or three tenths. On the softest tyre I just didn’t have enough grip, so we need to look into that and extract more out of it. On the longer runs we also looked competitive on the medium tyre which should be the most dominant tyre for the race. We still have a bit of set up work to do, especially as we will probably only get one timed lap on the tyres in qualifying. It also looks like the issues Ferrari had in Melbourne have been resolved, they look fastest at the moment so we need to work to close that gap.”
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:31.815, P6; FP2: 1:30.429, P12
“I think the performance was really good in FP1 and at the start of FP2. The balance was not ideal, but that’s normal, especially as it was very hot this morning when we had the first session. This afternoon in FP2 we were fast with the medium tyres but then with the softs we were lacking some pace. I couldn’t really push on the first laps, so I had to do it on the third, which is not ideal. I think overall the car is good, we’re just missing a bit of pace with this set up and need to improve our understanding of the soft tyres. I feel confident with the car, for sure it’s a different track than Melbourne so we need to optimise everything but I’m confident we can get it right tomorrow.”
Hulkenberg hasn’t wasted any time this season in getting up to speed, knowing full well the comparisons that are going to be made with his new team mate. The German was once again on it, coming home solidly in the top 10 in both sessions. Ricciardo, meanwhile, hasn’t found his feet at his new team just yet, but the proof will be tomorrow when the Honey Badger desperately needs a top 10 qualifying berth to silence the all-too-present whispers.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:32.040, P8; FP2: 1:29.669, P5
“Overall, it’s been a productive day’s work in Bahrain. It’s always a tricky place to arrive to for the second Grand Prix of the year with the heat and challenging climatic conditions with wind and dust. There was a distinct lack of grip in FP1 making it quite hard to drive and become comfortable in the car; we had to deal with a lot of oversteer. FP2 was under more representative conditions and I feel we’ve made a good start for both short and long run preparation. Fifth place on the leaderboard always looks nice, but we’re realistic and have our focus totally on qualifying tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:32.401, P11; FP2: 1:30.848, P15
“I struggled this afternoon and we were off the pace from where we would like. We started on the Hard tyre, which was tricky for grip, but once we put the Soft on it felt slightly more comfortable. I know there are things we can improve on, especially with the balance of the car. We conducted a lot of work to understand more about the car in the garage this afternoon and then we did the long run, which was a little better. We aren’t as competitive as we should be and obviously I want to be quicker tomorrow, so we will do some homework tonight.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director
“The first session in Bahrain is usually tricky with hot and dusty track conditions. That said, we got our programmes done on both sides of the garage without any issues, so it was a sensible FP1 for us. FP2 was more about doing tyre comparisons with short runs on Softs, then long running on Soft and Medium tyres. The performance looked reasonably decent for Nico but for Daniel it was a bit more difficult because he ran the Hard tyre to start with and that compound had quite low grip. This made his following run on the Soft tyre difficult as there was a big grip change. Both drivers have highlighted areas to work on overnight for car balance and we will be aiming to improve through corner consistency for tomorrow. Having done the long runs on Medium and Softs it gives us useful degradation data to inform our strategy decisions for Sunday.”
Grosjean had a moment in first practice, running wide over the kerbs and breaking his front wing in the process – something a few others might want to be wary of when choosing their racing line. Other than that it was a solid day for Haas, who will turn up their engines tomorrow and see how the midfield shakes out.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:32.994, P17; FP2: 1:30.068, P9
“We’ve done some good work today, and there’s more to be done before tomorrow. It was interesting to drive the car on a very hot track in FP1, then later in more representative conditions in FP2. We’re still learning about the VF-19, so I’m pretty happy to see how it performs. I’d like a bit more rear grip, especially on the long runs, that’s an area I think we can do a bit better, I’m confident we’ll find it. I think we’ve got some good margins to improve the car though, and that’s always a good thing before qualifying. We’ll be in the mix.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:32.602, P12; FP2: 1:30.000, P7
“I’m reasonably happy with our day. It was good to get FP2 in the darker, cooler conditions. FP1, well, it wasn’t scary, but it was very tricky with the hotter temperatures. It made the tyres tricky, and the car was not behaving well, but it was the same for everyone. It was good to get into it in FP2, we got to see how the car acted in the conditions that we’ll have in qualifying tomorrow. I was happier in those conditions than in the earlier session, so that’s a positive. The car was behaving much better.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was quite an interesting day. FP1 seemed to be difficult, the conditions are so different here between the two sessions on Friday, with FP2 being similar to what we’ll face in qualifying tomorrow. We weren’t where we wanted to be in FP1, but we stayed calm as we knew the conditions would change later. We did a good job in FP2. I think tomorrow will be the same thing, we need to stay calm in FP3, then work with what we found out in FP2 for qualifying. Overall, not a bad day.”
Both cars spent significant time in the garage in second practice, with a mechanical problem for Perez and floor damage costing Stroll lap time. Indeed, the Canadian had a very topsy turvy day after spinning in first practice before taking far too much kerb in FP2 and causing the damage to his RP19. With second practice the only representative session under the lights before qualifying, that could prove very costly for Racing Point tomorrow.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:32.885, P16; FP2: 1:30.716, P14
“It’s been a challenging day to start our Bahrain weekend. We need to work hard to find a few tenths overnight and improve the balance of the car, otherwise it’ll be very difficult to reach Q3. The sessions earlier in the day, FP1 and FP3, are not that relevant because the temperatures are so much higher than what we expect for qualifying and the race, so the opportunities to work on the set-up are limited. We tried lots of things on the car today, which will help our learning in the long term, and we collected all the usual tyre information ahead of the race.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:33.518, P18; FP2: 1:31.129, P17
“It wasn’t easy today. We need to review the data and work hard to understand where we can find some more performance. The first session was very busy with big changes to the car – running different aero parts – and trying to understand the best direction for the rest of the weekend. We know it’s very competitive in the midfield so we have to find some speed tonight if we are to be in the top ten tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“As always in Bahrain the early practice session was run in very hot conditions and wasn’t really representative of the conditions we will experience for qualifying and the race. As such, we elected to treat FP1 largely as a test session to evaluate some different aero and mechanical updates. We split the items between the cars, carried out some floor changes during the session, and continued to learn about the car. Our performance during the evening session suggests we are a bit on the back foot with the car balance so there’s plenty of work to do tonight.”
McLaren continued their upward trajectory from Melbourne, with both drivers getting plenty of lap time. The team are solidly in the midfield hunt, which is progress from last season. But the bad news is that that midfield is as competitive as ever and one bad lap could be the difference from P7 down to 18th on the grid...
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:31.952, P7; FP2: 1:30.192, P11
“It was a smooth Friday and we could complete our programme without any issues. Overall, the performance looks good and promising, but we know that tomorrow the others will turn up their engines, so we have to be cautious there.
“Happy with today. We just need to make sure that one timed lap is nailed a bit better to maximise the result in quali. Still some margin to improve the car as well so I look forward to tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:32.945, P15; FP2: 1:30.017, P8
“There are still things to improve upon but it’s been a decent start to the weekend. I feel more confident because I know the procedures a little more. I think FP1 went reasonably well: we got through everything we had to and I got a good feeling for the track. The track temperature in FP2 came down a lot meaning the car felt pretty different and obviously lap times were much faster.
“We ended that session with a small issue which didn’t allow me to do as many laps as I wanted – but I still did a longer run on the higher fuel plus short runs at the beginning of the session, so I got a decent feeling.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
“We can be satisfied with our running today. We went through both FP1 and FP2 relatively smoothly and the car is behaving according to expectations. Drilling into details, we were able to execute both quali simulations and longer runs as planned. The changing conditions between the sessions poses a unique challenge here in Bahrain, due to the big shift in track temperature.
“However, FP2, quali and the race are held at the same time. As usual, we have a long night ahead of us, going through all the information that we gathered today, in our quest to make the best possible decisions looking ahead to tomorrow.”
Kvyat had a strong day, working through his programme and churning out the laps whilst staying on the fringes of the top 10. Likewise, Albon was solid if unspectacular, a few tenths and a few places behind his team mate in both sessions. Is Q3 possible tomorrow? Toro Rosso did go very well here last year in the hands of Gasly...
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:32.339, P9; FP2: 1:30.093, P10
“Generally, we had quite a productive Friday. We managed to cover all of the useful test items we planned for the day, and also covered both short and long runs - which is very important for Friday practice! It seems like everything is quite tight in terms of performance among the midfield teams, so we will work hard overnight to optimise the car for tomorrow in order to put us where we want to be.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:32.874, P13; FP2: 1:30.458, P13
“It was a pretty good day in the office. I think, as we’ve seen already, the midfield is really close which leaves no room for error. We struggled a bit with balance in the morning session but we were able to fix that for FP2, although we need to make some changes overnight to further improve the performance of the car. There’s definitely a few things we need to tune in order to be ready for tomorrow, so it’s just going to be about maximising the package we have and being at the sharp end of the midfield. We know what needs changing, so hopefully we can be more competitive tomorrow for Qualifying.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It’s fair to say we’ve had a productive day, the car was very reliable and we completed our entire test plan with quite a lot of laps, so that was positive. In the morning we focussed on the option tyres with both cars: the track evolution is massive, as it always is here, so the track started dirty and dusty and this made the balance quite difficult. FP1 was mainly focussed on trying to understand the track and get Alex up to speed with the circuit in an F1 car, while also doing some mechanical setup work. We need to be careful here because the track condition changes massively from FP1 to FP2, so what you learn in the day sessions often isn’t applicable to the sessions that count.
"The balance was tricky in the morning with very high track temperatures, so we had to account for that going into FP2 with the setup changes we made, which were a step in the right direction. Dany set a good lap, while Alex had a bit of traffic in Turns 1 and 2 on his timed lap, which cost him a couple of tenths, but their laps were effectively comparable - ultimately, Alex is on the same pace as Dany and looking quite competitive over the short runs.
"The midfield again is massively tight, so a tenth of a second can make around three positions. The key will be to work on all the fine details and try to get the car completely optimised for tomorrow. On the long runs, both drivers started on the option tyre then moved onto the prime, with both compounds behaving quite well. Looking into our competitiveness, we’re in reasonable shape in terms of where we want to be.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“It was a normal Friday and we worked on optimising our PU settings to suit this circuit. We went through all our programme with both teams and everything went smoothly. The first session is run in much higher temperatures than the evening practice, so we have gathered plenty of data from running in different conditions, which will help us prepare as well as possible for the rest of the weekend.”
Williams arrived here with more questions than answers. They remain well off the pace of even the lower midfield, but are confident they can make the 107% rule and qualify on merit tomorrow. But other than one Russell spin, there is little to mark out their performance on Friday under either the sun or the lights.
Robert Kubica – FP1: 1.34.253, P20; FP2: 1:32.932, P20
"It wasn’t an easy day, but we know what we need to work on. After the first race I had some doubts and questions, but those have now gone. In Australia, I ran a different set-up to George and we could clearly see the different characteristics of the car, here we started with the same set-up and the characteristics are still different. I just hope we are able to solve it, but we have some tests to do so we understand the reasons."
George Russell - FP1: 1:34.188, P19; FP2: 1:31.904, P19
"I enjoy driving in Bahrain it’s a really nice track with a good flow to it. I think we are very slightly closer, as the circuit generally suits the team more than others, but we are where we expected. FP1 was quite a challenge, however I think everybody was struggling out there in the hot conditions. FP2 was much nicer to drive but the laptimes are still a long way off and we have a lot of work to do. Whilst we are in this position we need to use it to optimise everything else so when the car does become competitive we are ready to pounce."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"It is the second race of the season and we have very different conditions here to those in Melbourne. It was extremely hot and windy in FP1 which made life very difficult for all the cars as well as making learning tricky. We were able to get through some interesting tests based on some of the investigations we did back in the factory after Melbourne. Moving into FP2 it was much cooler, and the wind had calmed down, so we were able to knuckle down and get onto the real preparation ahead of qualifying and the race. We have run some useful tests, with the two cars running slightly different programmes in terms of car setup as we continue to learn how to get the best out of the FW42. On George’s car we had our first proper run on the C1 compound, which is Pirelli’s hardest tyre and the prime here. All in all, it was a tricky Friday, but we were able to learn more about the car and complete some good preparation. We must now hold our nerve as we know FP3 will be hot and difficult, and make sure we make the most of what we learned in FP2, so we can apply that for qualifying and the race."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
“No surprises from the first day of action here in Bahrain, which represents quite a different challenge compared to Australia, and as a result we’re also seeing a slightly different competitive order so far. We’re happy with the tyres, which are performing exactly how we wanted them to: there’s about a second between each compound up to now, and this means that it’s probably going to be quite difficult to qualify on the medium compound tomorrow during Q2, which determines the starting tyre for the grid. Last year we saw a mix of strategies in the race, and the early signs so far suggest that we could see the same again in 2019.”