F1 2021 testing Day 1: Verstappen sets the Pace as Mercedes struggle

It’s finally here!

The 2021 Formula One season kicked off today with the first of three days of pre-season testing.

It was a windy day in Bahrain and conditions were making things tricky out on track for the drivers.

Despite the sandstorm during the afternoon session, it was Max Verstappen who was fastest on the opening day of testing.

While times are not entirely representative this early on, laps definitely do matter, and it was Red Bull who completed the most laps on the opening day.

It did feel like a day of two halves, mostly due to the strange weather in the afternoon, so let’s have a look at what happened during today’s sessions.

Morning session

Teams wasted no time to get their installation laps completed. However, for Mercedes, it would be the only running they would do for most of the morning.

Mercedes had a gear shift issue on fire-up and were forced to change the gearbox. It took over two hours to get it changed which left Bottas with only 35 minutes of running.

This would also be cut short as Leclerc came to a stop with only 10 minutes to go to the lunch break. The circumstances of Leclerc’s stop was unclear, but it did bring out the red flag.

In the end Bottas only got 6 laps done.

Credit: Formula One

It wasn’t just Mercedes who struggled for track time in the morning session, Haas were also hampered. Mick Schumacher had a nice early run but was pulled in as Haas wanted to change the gearbox.

Sebastian Vettel stalled his Aston Martin at the end of the pit-lane which brought an end to his session. Not a great way to end his run after getting a good number of laps done.

Williams were slow to get Nissany out on track, however, he got some meaningful running later on in the session.

For the cars actually out on track, the conditions were very windy, and it made it difficult for the drivers to navigate. Early on we saw Kimi Raikkonen wrestling with his Alfa Romeo as he fought against the conditions.

But Daniel Ricciardo managed to find some pace and set the fastest lap of the morning session while completing 45 laps.

Afternoon session

The heavy wind had left the track very sandy when teams returned for the afternoon session.

Nikita Mazepin and Esteban Ocon were straight out, and it was clear to see that grip levels were low.

Some drivers took it a lot more cautious than others. When Lewis Hamilton eventually appeared onto the track, he was slipping and sliding coming out of near enough every corner.

He quickly came back into the pits to change his pedals.

Nikita Mazepin had a spin as well as Carlos Sainz. You can’t blame them, as the conditions were very tricky.

Eventually the sand cleared off the racing line and the drivers could put their foot down. Verstappen was stamping his mark and putting his Red Bull at the top of the timing sheets.

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing

Not all drivers did tough out the sand storm. Lance Stroll was delayed getting some track time as the car developed a small electrical fault which meant he was out for half of the session.

As the sun went down and the lights came on, it was mostly plane sailing as drivers got laps on the board.

At the end of the session Red Bull, Alpine, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo all clocked in over 100 laps. A very solid day.

The same couldn’t be said for Mercedes who only managed 48 laps all day.

Who were the winners from day 1?

Red Bull.

They had a very solid day with Verstappen finishing top of the time sheets and completed the most laps.

While the car looked shaky at the start of the day and that saw Max have a half spin coming out of Turn 2.

Max seemed to get to grips with that car by the end of the day and he was able to complete long runs with very few problems. It was definitely encouraging by Red Bull.

Tomorrow will see Sergio Perez take to the track in the car for the first time.

Red Bull will be hoping to replicate the success they have had today and take advantage of Mercedes’ issues.

Honourable mentions also go out to Alpine who had a very solid day as well as Alfa Romeo who looked very good out on track.

Who were the losers from day one?

Mercedes.

It was cruel day for the reigning champions as a gearbox issue meant they were pit-lane bound for most of the morning session.

Once the car was back out on track, Bottas was only able to get 5 laps completed.

Credit: Mercedes AMG-Petronas F1

In the afternoon it took a while for Lewis to emerge from the garage. He found himself back in the pits in no time so the team could change the pedals.

He got back out with just over two hours remaining but was back in the pits within 15 minutes.

Hamilton could only complete 42 laps in the afternoon and ended the session in 10th place.

Far from the start the champions wanted.

Honourable mention also to Haas. Haas had to replace the gearbox in the morning, but the missed time was made up by Mazepin completing 69 laps in the afternoon.

Full classification

Credit: Formula One

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