RACE DEBRIEF

    A round-up of the opening day's action from the Formula 1 2018 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit...

    Mercedes

    There is work to do for Mercedes overnight, after they lagged behind their Scuderia rivals in FP2 by half a second. Hamilton's flying lap was compromised by running slightly older tyres, but nonetheless, he won't be entirely happy with how Friday has gone after a series of scruffy laps included a big lock-up and a few off-track excursions.

    Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:32.272, P5; FP2: 1:30.472, P4

    "It's been a normal Friday, we've got through all our programme. It looks very close between all the teams and we definitely have got some work to do to try and see if we can eke out to be ahead of the others. The tyres have felt the best they've felt here in years; very stable and with less degradation. The track is great and it's amazing at night-time. The hospitality here is really second to none, it's an enjoyable stay and a great place to work."

    Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:31.364, P2; FP2: 1:30.380, P3

    "This weekend is difficult because the track improves so much from one session to another. We could already see it today, you feel more grip with every single lap and the car balance is changing so we always had to make estimates for the next session and the next runs. It will be the same for tomorrow. Our main goal today was to get the softer compounds to work. On the supersoft we did pretty much the same time as on the soft, so getting the most out of that compound is the key thing for tomorrow. The car feels okay, but we still need to find some pace, especially for a single lap. So we still have some work to do."

    James Allison, Technical Director

    "Although we were untroubled by any reliability issues, and we ran through our programme as expected, it wasn't our best day from a performance point of view. We've got more to do overnight and in the session tomorrow to give us a car that will allow us to have a good fight in qualifying and on Sunday. The base is okay but we have not yet found the sort of edge that we had in Melbourne."

    Ferrari

    After their somewhat surprise victory in Australia, Ferrari have picked up where they left off with both drivers looking quick on the soft and supersoft rubber. Ominously, their long-run pace looked extremely competitive as well. One small blight on a decent day was the release of Raikkonen from the pits with a loose wheel, leading to a fine but fortunately no grid drop.

    Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:31.470, P4; FP2: 1:29.828, P2

    “It is difficult to say where we are just from one day of practice but we did make some progress. In the long runs we can do better, so let’s see what happens tomorrow. We made some mistakes here and there, but we tried to get the rhythm for qualifying. This is the time you need to try and take the car to the limit, especially this evening because conditions are the same as those you will have tomorrow and on Sunday night. I don’t have any conclusions to draw after the results we got today. We focus on ourselves and mostly try to get a better feeling with the car, as we still have some work to do, but I think we can improve further.”

    Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:31.458, P3; FP2: 1:29.817, P1

    “It was a pretty straightforward day and the car felt ok. As on any Friday, we tried different things, tested and learned as much as possible. The feeling was pretty much the same everywhere, but in certain zones of the track we want to do better. If we look purely at lap times it was OK, but that doesn’t tell you much; It’s only the first day and it’s impossible to know what the others were doing. At the end of the second session, right after the pit-stop, I felt some vibrations in the car and the team told me to slow down and park the car. We found out that the front wheel was a bit loose, so we had to stop. For sure we still have to improve; tonight we’ll put all the data together to try and do even better.”

    Red Bull

    A mixed bag for Red Bull - Ricciardo looked quick in topping FP1, but had his flying lap in FP2 wrecked by a slow moving Bottas. Verstappen, meanwhile, pulled over in FP1 with an electrical issue. Despite a lack of running, he looked competitive in FP2 and will surely only get quicker as he gets more laps under his belt.

    Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:31.060, P1; FP2: 1:30.751, P6

    “Overall it wasn’t a bad day. Obviously, this morning was pretty strong but the evening session was not as good; we made some changes that didn’t work as well as we hoped. I don’t just want to go back to the Practice One car as I think we can still make it better. We can find a happy medium on the balance and the overall feeling is not too bad. I don’t think the position this evening is too important. I got traffic on the first lap, so I had to go for the second lap, and for sure I lost a bit of lap time there. Mercedes will still turn it up in Qualifying but we will be closer than where we were tonight. I’m confident that we will have a good car and tomorrow I’m sure we can be better than sixth and hopefully even better again in the race. I also just want to say that I don’t want Valtteri to get a penalty. This is Practice and it’s frustrating but I don’t think anyone agreed with my penalty last week and I don’t want to start that game. I believe he wasn’t told on the radio, so it’s probably not his fault.”

    Max Verstappen - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:30.745, P5

    “We had a small issue this morning. These things happen so it doesn’t concern me looking ahead to the rest of the weekend. It was not ideal to miss so much track time, it meant that I spent the beginning of the second session searching for the balance of the car which took a while. For such a short time in the car I managed to find quite a good balance and the long run pace looked pretty positive. I was also happy with how the tyre degradation looked at the end of that session. Come race day it will depend a lot on strategy, you can follow at this track better than others so with the right planning and a bit of luck you can get a good result. I think Practice 2 is the most important as it’s the closest conditions to the race, the others are a bit warm. Tomorrow we need to fine tune the short run pace in order to put ourselves in contention on Sunday, I’ll try to improve the feeling and balance to put myself in the best position possible.”

    McLaren

    Both Alonso and Vandoorne had quiet but productive days, putting in the laps to extract maximum data for the team. P11 and P13 from FP1 were improved upon as the sun went down to two top-10 times, indicating that come qualifying and the race, they should be competitive once again.

    Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:33.223, P11; FP2: 1:31.282, P9

    “Today was a case of ‘so far, so good’.

    “The weekend has started in a positive way and there’s nothing in particular to worry about. There is a lot of analysis that we need to do concerning some of the new parts we have on our two cars, so I think we need to put everything together now and find the best compromise for tomorrow. Our aim for qualifying is to be in Q3 – a target we missed in Australia – and we need to deliver and do a perfect lap, so that we can beat some of the cars in front of us.

    “It’s good that we completed our programme today. It’s always very important, especially in the evening session, to do as many laps as possible and understand the tyres, as we probably had higher degradation than we expected and we need to take this into account for Sunday.

    “There’s a little bit more to extract from the car and hopefully we’ll do that tomorrow.”

    Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:33.364, P13; FP2: 1:31.422, P10

    “Today has been a pretty good Friday for us. We have a few new bits on the car which we went through and evaluated in FP1 and FP2. FP2 is really the most valuable session for us in terms of preparing the car for qualifying tomorrow and for the race.

    “The feeling was positive. Like in Australia, we are in this group where the lap-times are very close, and every tenth or hundredth we can find in the car will boost us further up the grid. Qualifying is always very tight and everyone puts their car at 100 per cent performance. We’re looking to do that as well tomorrow and we’ll see where we end up. The tyres are quite sensitive to this circuit and we know from the past few years that it’s quite harsh on degradation. There’s a lot of performance to be gained or lost in that area, so it’s an extra challenge, but the same for everyone.

    “Despite our result in Australia, for us it’s just business as usual. We haven’t really changed our expectations, and we’ve put a lot of effort into preparing the car and making sure we maximise everything this weekend. Hopefully that will pay off and tomorrow will be a positive day for us. There’s a bit of work to do overnight but we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Eric Boullier, Racing Director

    “Today was a valuable day of learning for us here in Bahrain. The two sessions went very smoothly on both sides of the garage, and Fernando and Stoffel provided constructive and positive feedback about the progress made throughout the day.

    “We completed our programme with both cars, which included longer runs at the end of the day and has presented us with useful data in more representative conditions from the upgrades we have brought here. I’d also like to say thank you to everyone back at the factory who has been working hard to ensure we could come here with the remaining components we’d planned that we weren’t quite able to have ready in time for Australia.

    “Qualifying is all-important tomorrow to decide our grid slots, and we’re under no illusion about the strength of our competition. We saw today that the midfield pack is very tight, so positions can be won or lost by the smallest of margins. We have work to do overnight to ensure we give ourselves the best opportunity for Sunday’s race, but we will surely put up a fight here tomorrow in front of our Bahraini friends and colleagues.”

    Force India

    The first practice session was not representative for the Force India team, as they experimented with aerodynamic balance and tried a raft of new parts on the VJM11. Come FP2, they ran similar tyre simulations to their midfield rivals and wound up in the middle of the pack in P13 and P14. Work to do if they wish to crack the top 10 tomorrow.

    Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:33.662, P18; FP2: 1:31.868, P14

    “The first session was very busy with lots of aero work. It’s given us lots of information to help us understand which parts are giving the best performance. We were evaluating the new front wing and will decide tonight if we will continue using it for the rest of the weekend. The evening session went smoothly and we did all the usual things to prepare for the race. Our long run pace is still stronger than our qualifying speed and I think we can come away with some points this weekend.”

    Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:33.794, P19; FP2: 1:31.809, P13

    “The team worked really hard today. It’s not easy to change the floor quickly during a session, but the guys did a really quick job and it didn’t cost us too much time on track. All the aero work we did today will give us valuable information for the future. The second session was pretty normal. We did lots of laps and I’m feeling quite happy with the car. We made improvements each time, but we are still missing a little bit of pace to be right at the front of the midfield.”

    Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

    “The hot track conditions this morning are not representative of racing conditions here so we chose to carry out a big testing programme to better understand the updated parts of the VJM11. Both cars ran with different aero configurations and it was an important day of learning. The evening session was focussed on the usual race weekend preparations and we completed the run plan without any significant issues.”

    Renault

    Sainz was the quicker of the two Renault drivers in FP1, with Hulkenberg taking the spoils in the second session. Indeed the German was 'best of the rest' in seventh, despite complaining of tyre wear. Sainz wasn't happy with the balance of his R.S.18 either, calling it "an absolute mess" at one point.

    Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:33.104, P10; FP2: 1:31.220, P7

    “A pretty routine Friday, where we made progress through the day, and hopefully learnt sufficient for us to find further pace overnight to take into tomorrow. I’m reasonably happy with the car but there’s definitely potential for improvement and that’s what we’re targeting.”

    Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:32.885, P8; FP2: 1:31.601, P12

    “Quite a challenging Friday, as always in Bahrain, as we worked on our understanding of the car in both the sessions. We did gain a lot of grip over the day and it was tricky to handle the rear of the car with the right balance for all the different corner speeds, but overall I think we have a good starting point for the weekend.”

    Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director

    “We ran pretty well to programme today and completed positive aero comparisons with our updates including a new Halo fairing in FP1. In FP2 we completed the usual tyre comparisons. We will now analyse our data to identify where we can improve for FP3 and qualifying.”

    Williams

    A disappointing day saw both drivers spin - Stroll in FP1, Sirokin more spectacularly in FP2. Both also struggled for pace, with Stroll repeatedly complaining of oversteer and often running wide.

    Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1:33.467, P15; FP2: 1:32.474, P18

    "It was quite a good session. I think we completed, learned and collected quite a lot of information. We also tried very different compounds for tomorrow on short and long runs, so I think it was a very productive session. That's what we needed, some clean running which we can use later on in the year, so I think we have to be happy with today. I was on the hardest tyre for the first run. I think where we are is not too far off what we were expecting. The main thing is we're not talking about results, we're talking about the data and information we collected. In these terms, it was quite productive. Realistically, we have some things to work on, but I think we will improve a little bit, just the same as others will, so let's see who does the better homework tonight."

    Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:33.379, P14; FP2: 1:32.382, P17

    "It's been a tricky day in terms of where we are on the time sheets. There is a lot to improve on, that's for sure. The car feels better than last year, but its’s still not where we want to be. Melbourne was a little bit better on Friday than the Friday we have experienced here in Bahrain, but it is another day tomorrow. We have a meeting tonight to discuss the car and where we can improve our pace, so hopefully we can get on top of things and come back better tomorrow. I think we can improve in many areas, so there is a lot that can be better. I think I could make my lap a tenth or two better than where it is, but still that is not enough as we need to be looking for big gains and not just minor details."

    Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

    "We completed our programme with two relatively minor issues; one on Lance's car in FP1, which lost us his final run but was easily fixed, and a puncture on Lance's car on his final run of FP2 cut that run short. Other than that, we ran a number of experiments across both sides of the garage with downforce levels, and some mechanical and aerodynamic changes. The drivers are not entirely unhappy with the car, but the pace is not where we need it to be. Particularly in FP2, we lost competitiveness - something we need to understand overnight in order to put ourselves in better shape for qualifying."

    Toro Rosso

    Contrasting fortunes at Toro Rosso. Gasly impressed in both sessions, quietly going about his business and twice solidly making the top 10, including on the supposedly slower soft tyres in FP1. Hartley struggled for pace relative to his team mate, propping up the field in FP2.

    Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:32.779, P7; FP2: 1:31.232, P8

    “Today was a very productive Friday for us, it felt very comfortable in the car since the first lap in FP1. We showed some decent pace in both sessions with a 7th and 8th best time. It’s a good beginning but there are still things we can improve for tomorrow because it’s really tight between everyone, so I need to spend a lot of time tonight analysing everything we tested today. The first feeling with the car is really positive, so hopefully we can keep it and have a similar day tomorrow.”

    Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:33.497, P16; FP2: 1:32.908, P20

    “It was a pretty productive day for the team today; Pierre and I ran very different setups across the cars as we had new bits to test and this was very useful because Pierre looked very quick for the whole day. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a representative lap on the supersofts in the afternoon, but we gathered some really important information on the long runs. We definitely seem a lot more competitive than in Melbourne and it looks positive for tomorrow.”

    Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

    “Today was a very productive and successful day for the team as a whole, a bit more so on Pierre’s side of the garage than Brendon’s. We came to this event with quite a few new aero components – actually a new package – that we fitted to Pierre’s car for today, while Brendon was on the old Melbourne one for today’s sessions. The new package appears to be working very well - we can see a difference between them so that’s positive – the aero guys have done a good job! We’ve also spent a lot of today working on optimising the setup around the aero package based on what we saw in Melbourne as well. After the last race the engineers across the two factories in Bicester and Faenza spent an awful lot of time analysing everything and trying to come up with some new setup directions which we’ve tested successfully here today. We have some good direction now which hopefully we can carry into tomorrow. There’s a bit of work to do on Brendon’s car - he will get the same new aero package tomorrow - so he will take a step with that and take on the learnings that we have from today. Another positive as well is that in the long runs the tyre degradation looked good on our car - maybe a bit lower than other competitors - so overall a good start to the weekend.”

    Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

    “Two weeks on from Melbourne, here in Bahrain we are racing at a more representative race track. The Sakhir track no longer presents the really tough challenge for the PU, because running qualifying and the race at night means temperatures are much lower than in the past, when it was a daytime race. However, it still presents an interesting exercise for the engineers, as FP2 provides a more accurate assessment of the conditions to be encountered on Saturday and Sunday and so was the best session for working on engine settings for the rest of the weekend. The normal Friday programme went smoothly and it was a productive day overall for the team.”

    Haas

    Haas had a solid first session before struggling with traffic in FP2. Both Grosjean and Magnussen tangled with differing Force Indias, but ultimately seem to once again have the pace to challenge for points Whether they can carry that speed into the cooler evening conditions remains to be seen.

    Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:32.516, P6; FP2: 1:31.591, P11

    “It was a decent day for us, but I think we can be better tomorrow. The afternoon pace was not as good as the morning. My fastest lap was compromised by traffic in the last corner, so I guess there’s a little bit in there. We didn’t do enough for the night, but that’s where practice is good. Now we’ve got a good delta. We can work in FP3 to get ready for qualifying.”

    Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:32.971, P9; FP2: 1:31.969, P15

    “We’ve had a bit of a tricky Friday, but the car didn’t feel bad. There’s lots to learn about the tires, though. It wasn’t easy with the change of temperature from morning to the afternoon. At the moment, we have a lot of stuff to go through just to understand the tires and how to get them up to temperature and by how much, which is a tricky thing here with the tarmac being very rough and the temperature varying as much as it does. I’m still hopeful that we can make up some time tomorrow.”

    Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

    “FP1 was pretty good. In FP2, we learned, but we also need to find a bit more speed. I still think we’re in a good position for tomorrow. We’re looking forward to qualifying.”

    Sauber

    Leclerc spun in FP1, before Ericsson did the same in second practice, going one better and making a trip through the gravel. That aside it was a promising day for the Sauber team, especially for their rookie who came home in 12th and 16th in the two sessions.

    Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:33.508, P17; FP2: 1:32.733, P19

    “It was a busy session today. FP1 was quite good – I focused on mechanical set-up work. During FP2 I lost the rear of the car, which was not ideal, but as the session progressed the balance improved and the car felt good towards the end. It seems that we are moving in the right direction. We will be analysing the data tonight and will see what we can do for tomorrow’s qualifying.”

    Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:33.379, P12; FP2: 1:32.372, P16

    “In general, it was quite a positive day for us. The qualifying performance was good and the car felt good to drive. At the end of the second session I completed a red flag practice. We will be looking at what we learned during today’s sessions, and build on that for FP3 and qualifying. I look forward to being back in the car tomorrow.”

    Pirelli

    Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

    “We’re satisfied with the performance of all three compounds so far, on a track that distinguishes itself by having the roughest surface of the year, with an unusual situation in qualifying and the race as track temperatures fall in the evening. This makes wear, degradation, and consequently strategy quite hard to predict, with all the key work having to be condensed into the 90 minutes of FP2. There’s a reasonable gap between medium and soft as we expected, but the gap between supersoft and soft is slightly bigger than we initially predicted, so this could lead to some interesting tactics during qualifying tomorrow as teams start to commit towards a race strategy. From what we can see so far, there are a number of different strategic possibilities on the table for qualifying and the race.”

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