F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix: FP1 & 2 Report – Verstappen & Red Bull in Charge

Formula 1 is finally back this weekend! The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix got underway today with Free-Practice 1 and 2.

Mercedes-Benz looked poor in testing, but were more solid today. However, it was Max Verstappen and Red Bull that still looked like the combination to beat, as the Dutchman topped both practice sessions today. Here are all the highlights from today’s F1 running!

FP1

FP1 got underway under sunny skies, as you’d expect in Bahrain. Something to note this season is that FP1 and FP2 are now only a hour long each, thirty minutes down on what we had before. This had the desired effect, as the running on-track was definitely more frantic than we’d come to expect from Friday practice.

Red Bull and Max Verstappen continued their pace-setting form from testing in FP1, as the flying Dutchman went almost three tenths of a second faster than Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen set the pace in FP1. Image: F1

Lando Norris was a respectable third for McLaren, with Sir Lewis Hamilton half a second off the pace in fourth. Ferrari’s pace was encouraging with Charles Leclerc fifth and Carlos Sainz eighth. Things were looking ominously bad for Haas though, as Mick Schumacher and the neutral competitor propped up the timings sheets.

FP2

FP2 is incredibly important, as it’s the only time before qualifying when the drivers can run at night and get truly representative running.

The middle sector was catching a lot of drivers out at the start of the session as Norris, Bottas and the neutral competitor all spun. They managed to avoid the barriers, but Kimi Raikkonen wasn’t as lucky. The Iceman lost his cool and lost his front wing at Turn 3. He would thankfully recover his Alfa to the pits, though.

Kimi Raikkonen was caught out by the low grip conditions

Mercedes would go 1-2 at the top of the standings, but that didn’t last long. Sainz, Norris and then Verstappen all usurped the Black Arrows by the halfway point of the session.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE SILVER ARROWS DUEL IN THE DESERT

In the end, it was Verstappen again who topped the session. Norris was a very respectable P2 and Hamilton completed the podium. Sainz showed encouraging pace again, P4 for the Spaniard. The Haas, Williams and Alfa Romeos populated the bottom of the timesheet, as we expected.

Is Red Bull’s pace genuine?

Red Bull have looked strong throughout testing and today’s free practice sessions. If you go on this season alone, you would assume that the Austrian outfit are the team to beat in 2021.

However, all teams keep their cards close to their chest, especially Mercedes. The German team have become infamous for sand-bagging in recent seasons, so you can’t discount them. The W12 certainly looked more balanced today than in testing, despite Bottas’ notable complaints.

The only true way to know whether Red Bull have the fastest package is to see how the cars perform in qualifying tomorrow. Even then, race pace is a big unknown and that’s where Mercedes have been particularly strong both historically and today.

Full Classification

READ MORE: F1 2021 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW: NEW SEASON BECKONS WITH PLENTY ON THE HORIZON

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview the Bahrain Grand Prix? George Howson hosted panelists Louis Edwards, Sam Thatcher and Jack Watson in the Grid Talk Bahrain GP Preview. Full audio and video versions of the show are available below:

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