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2021 Mexican Grand Prix: Practice report – Could Red Bull run away this weekend?

The Mexican fans were out in force to support Sergio Perez after a two year absence. But the focus for the rest of us was not on Sergio Perez, but instead on his team-mate Max Verstappen and his title rival, Lewis Hamilton.

As we head into the final five races, these practice sessions are going to more important as the drivers will want to feel as comfortable as possible on track to get the most out of the remaining races.

Let’s get straight into the Friday action!

FP1

The cars headed out onto a very dusty track as Free Practice 1 got underway.

The dusty conditions were making things tricky for the drivers out on track and lead to different tyre strategies for different teams.

Mercedes went straight for the soft tyres while Red Bull went for the Hard tyres. Regardless of the tyres, it was difficult for any driver to keep it on the tarmac.

Leclerc was having a horrid time keeping his rear end in check and eventually it spun on him and put him in the barrier on the entrance to the final corner. He was lucky not to do any significant damage to the back of his car as he drove out of the wall and into the pits.

The same couldn’t be said for home hero Sergio Perez. He got onto the raised curb as he headed into the final corner and spun the car. He caught the first slide, but the rear went again, and he slammed into the wall.

Sergio Perez lost half of his front wing and appeared to do more damage as they had the floor off the car when he returned back to the garage. But after some speculation that his session might be over, he got back into the car with 20 minutes remaining.

The track conditions did continue to improve as the session and the times did tumble, but the track was far from easy.

We saw a great display from Daniel Ricciardo as he drifted round every corner in the stadium section. It was impressive to watch and I’m sure it was fun for Daniel.

Mercedes’ pace seemed to take many by surprise as they came straight out to go first and second fastest in the session.

Red Bull were not far behind though, but on paper, I think we were expecting Red Bull to be faster. But maybe Red Bull were waiting until FP2 to show their real pace.

FP2

FP2 time and cars were going out to set their flying laps as soon as possible.

But the problem that comes with all the cars out on track to set fast laps is traffic and with the slow and tight nature of the final sector, this was becoming an issue for those who tried to get out early.

Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were having a bit of a battle with neither wanted to give each other room to set their fast laps.

It was Red Bull who were setting the initial pace on the Medium tyres, but both Mercedes drivers were on the hard tyres, but their pace was still very good.

Those hard tyres would be useless for the race though as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had huge double lock-up going into the first corner and went straight on over the grass.

The dust issues from FP1 had not gone away and this was still catching drivers off guard as they charged down into turn 1.

George Russell was the last driver to get out to try and set a lap time, but it was not long before he was back into the garage. He reported an issue with the gearbox and was stuck in fifth gear as he cruised back to the pit-lane.

The mystery got curiouser as replays showed a lose fixing fall off the back of Russell’s car as he left the pit-lane. That marked the end of the session for George Russell as was sat on the pit-wall not long later.

When the drivers made the switch onto the soft tyres, it was Red Bull who were much faster than Mercedes. Max Verstappen was over half a second clear of Lewis Hamilton and four tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas.

The drivers now settled in to do their long runs in preparation for the race. From here the session really settles down, but for Nicolas Latifi he was lucky to escape the wall.

He got a bit out of shape going into the final corner before slamming on the brakes before he speared the barrier. He managed to get the car into reverse before carrying on his way.

Could McLaren lose third in the constructors this weekend?

McLaren have not looked encouraging in either of the two free practice sessions and have looked far off the pace of Ferrari.

Both teams went very well in Monaco and given the high downforce demands of this track, I would have expected both teams to be close like they were in Monaco, but it would appear Ferrari have the upper hand.

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have looked very quick as they battle with Alpha Tauri who have also been incredibly quick in both practice sessions so far. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda have looked solid so far and could eb another threat to McLaren this weekend.

Lando Norris did manage to be comfortably quicker than Ricciardo in FP2, but the Aussie was forced to sit out much of FP2 with a gearbox issue.

With McLaren’s somewhat lack of pace, it could provide an opportunity for McLaren to get their engine penalties out of the way.

It has been discussed that McLaren would take an engine penalty for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo either at this Grand Prix or in Brazil in a weeks’ time.

It will be crucial for McLaren to try and find a good balance in the car before qualifying if they hope to get higher up the order for Qualifying.

We will find out soon if McLaren do take the option to change the engine.

FP1 classification

FP2 classification

F1 2021 Turkish Grand Prix: Qualifying Report: Hamilton fastest, but Bottas takes a crucial pole

It was wet in FP3, but the track looked to be drying before Qualifying. But, to add further excitement to the session, rain would be on its way. Lewis Hamilton took a new internal combustion engine for this weekend and received a 10-place grid penalty. Carlos Sainz also took a brand new engine and would be at the back of the grid regardless of his qualifying position.

It was set to e a very interesting qualifying session. Let’s get straight into the action!

Q1

With two minutes to go until qualifying started, there was already a lengthy queue at the end of the Pit-lane. With the rain on its way, teams were eager to get their drivers out on track as soon as possible.

Mick Schumacher got his Haas into Q2 for the second time this season, Previously at the French GP. Credit Haas.

The track was still damp from the rain during FP3, so getting a smooth lap was going to be very difficult.

It was a race to get onto a flying lap as most believed that there would only be the chance for one lap. Lewis skipped past both Ferraris to get track position in the final corners. Lewis blew his lap at the first corner as he exceeded track limits at turn 1.

A few drivers went for a spin at turn 1. Sainz and Verstappen went for a spin, but Verstappen manged to get another lap in to go fastest.

Drivers were able to get more laps than they believed they would as they were still running on slicks with 10 minutes left of the session.

Times were still improving as the session went on and some drivers were putting in some great lap times. George Russell went fastest at one point but was still hanging in the top 10.

The track was no means dry though and some other drivers were finding this out the hard way. Turn 1 was still proving to be very difficult. Tsunoda had a big moment that he over-corrected and put his car through the grass. Mazepin also had a spin as he looked to get out of last place.

The rain that was promised didn’t come so it was going to be tense for those at the bottom of the timing sheet as the track started to dry out and lap times started to tumble.

For the final flying laps the cars were flying and for Daniel Ricciardo this meant he dropped out in Q1. There were some familiar faces joining Ricciardo as he sat out the rest of Qualifying, But Mick Schumacher would not be one of them as he dragged his Haas into Q2.

Eliminated: Ricciardo (16th), Latifi (17th), Giovinazzi (18th), Raikkonen (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

Q2 started and still no rain. The track was still not fully dry, but still dry enough for slick tyres.

Graining was becoming an issue in Q1, so Mercedes and Red Bull opted for the medium tyres straight away. They were joined by the rest of the grid, apart from Yuki Tsunoda who still opted for the soft tyres.

Leclerc left it all to the end after this spin on his penultimate flying lap. Credit F1.

Not many representative times were being set as there was no rush to get a lap time done. The drivers were doing multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to a good temperature before going for a push lap.

The track conditions were still catching out drivers and it was Sergio Perez who had an identical spin to Yuki Tsunoda in Q1. He manged to keep the car out the wall, but his tyres were not in the best conditions.

While some drivers still struggled, others thrived. Fernando Alonso was doing a great job in his Alpine was not far off Max Verstappen who was behind both Mercedes in 3rd.

Tsunoda was showing pace was hadn’t seen for a while. Both him and Gasly were doing well and looked comfortable in the top 10.

Charles Leclerc was doing brilliantly until David Croft praised his pace and then Charles promptly spun at the final corner. This left him in the drop zone with a lot to do to be safe.

Stroll was just about in the top 10, but he had a moment into turn 1 on his last flying lap and it left him vulnerable. Leclerc was able to improve with help from his team-mate, but more commentator cursing from David Croft saw George Russell run wide at the final turn and he was out. Lance was safe.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Ocon (12th), Russell (13th), Schumacher (14th), Sainz (15th)

Q3

It was time for Q3.

Lewis Hamilton had been dominant up to this point with Bottas not far behind. It was going to take a mega effort from Max Verstappen to break Mercedes.

Bottas showed good pace, and even though he couldn’t beat Hamilton, he still got ahead of verstappen

Lewis does have his penalty, but he will be looking to qualify as high up the grid as possible to give him the best possible opportunity in the race.

The two Mercedes were the first out the gate and it was Bottas who went 0.022 seconds faster than Hamilton. Both times were good enough to lock-out the provisional front row.

Verstappen had a big of a moment during his lap and he was 2 tenths off Bottas’ fastest time, but still managed to go 3rd.

Gasly put in yet another brilliant lap to put his Alpha Tauri ahead of the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to go provisionally 4th.

Both Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc who had shown great pace were 7th and 8th respectively after their first laps. You would expect to see them improve on their second attempts.

Hamilton bucked the usual qualifying trend and went out early to set a second flying lap. He went purple in the first two sectors and went two tenths faster than Bottas. He had enough time to cool the tyres and get another lap in before the end.

Verstappen would set his final lap before the Mercedes, but it was only good for 3rd place. Bottas would come across the line second, but he could not improve his position so it would be pole position for Bottas despite Lewis setting the fastest lap.

Norris couldn’t improve his time, but Leclerc shot up to 4th on his final effort, ahead of Gasly in 5th. Perez could only get 7th place. Not what Red Bull needed.

Final Classification

F1 2021 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying report: Advantage Bottas for the Sprint race

F1 takes a second bite of the sprint qualifying cherry this weekend. Just like at Silverstone this means qualifying for the sprint race is on Friday.

We only had the single practice session to judge the cars going into this session and it looked like Lewis Hamilton could run away with it, but we had to see what would come.

Let’s get straight into the action.

Q1

Qualifying brings traffic in Monza, so the Ferrari’s were wasting no time to get onto the track to get a lap onto the board. Leclerc didn’t have great time on this first flying lap, complaining of brake issues. His lap put him behind both Williams cars, faster only than the Haas.

Traffic is a problem at Monza as Gasly found a Ferrari parked on the apex of Ascari. Credit: F1

Lando Norris was on it after a subdued free practice and went four tenths faster than Max Verstappen. Verstappen had a little trip into the gravel on the exit of the second chicane which put him down the order.

Both Mercedes drivers went straight to the the top of the times as expected.

The Monza mayhem started early in Q1 with Max being caught up in heavy traffic on his second run and both Alpines having to slalom through traffic on their flying laps.

Williams looked to play it smart towards the end of the session and get their cars out early before mob emerged. Russell could only get 11th and Latifi 13th, so it would a tense final minute for Williams.

Both Aston Martins cars were in danger of dropping out, but two huge efforts from Vettel and Stroll made sure they were safe. Also, a late charge from Alonso made sure he progressed to Q2.

It looked as though both Williams cars were out, but Tsunoda’s lap time was deleted and dropped him into 17th. This meant George was promoted to 15th and would be in Q2.

Eliminated: Latifi (16th), Tsunoda (17th), Schumacher (18th), Kubica (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

Leclerc’s issues from Q1 followed him into Q2. The issues with his brakes seemed to be a cause for concern for Ferrari, however they sent him out to see what he could do.

Silly scenes in the pit-lane as drivers went for their second runs.

The alarming difference between Red Bull and Mercedes this weekend was emphasised in this session as Hamilton was over seven tenths faster.

Both McLarens and Pierre Gasly separated Verstappen from the Mighty Mercs at the front.

Antonio Giovinazzi was going incredibly well in his Alfa Romeo. He almost matched Verstappen’s time after his first run and was looking for another Q3 appearance at his home race.

Leclerc was 9th despite his brake issues, and it was going to be a big second run for Carlos Sainz as he was sat in 13th place.

The Monza mayhem kicked off in the put lane at the end of Q2 as the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel was released into the path of Hamilton. Vettel was also lucky not to hit both a Aston Martin and Alpine mechanic. The fact there wasn’t an accident was a miracle.

But on the track the drivers were out for their final flying laps.

Perez manged to improve his lap time and he would scrape through in 10th place as both Ferrari’s found themselves into Q3.

Antonio Giovinazzi was 7th after a great effort, but for Aston Martin, both of their drivers were out, despite an improvement from Vettel on his second lap.

Neither Alpine drivers could do any better and were eliminated.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Stroll (12th), Alonso (13th), Ocon (14th), Russell (15th)

Q3

The drivers emerged for Q3 and it looked as though 1st and 2nd were already sorted so the battle for 3rd was there for anyone to take.

Norris bounced back after a poor qualifying in Zandvoort to put himself in a great spot for the sprint tomorrow. Credit F1

Lando Norris has been looking very fast in his McLaren, putting his car 3rd in both sessions before.

Bottas had a bit of a moment through the gravel which put him down the order and it allowed Verstappen to be in 2nd and only 0.017 seconds off Hamilton on provisional “pole”.

Lando Norris was also within a tenth of Hamilton, only 0.065 seconds off Hamilton. Ricciardo in the other McLaren also put in a great lap to go 4th, crucially ahead of Bottas.

Perez in the other Red Bull was not on the pace of his team-mate. He could only do as well as 9th, behind both Ferraris and only ahead of Giovinazzi.

It was the two Red Bulls who were out first as Perez was sacrificed as the leader of the tow train. Behind him was Max Verstappen.

Bottas, Hamilton and Norris planted themselves as the back of the line. We would see how these tactics who play out.

Max was down on his first sector and then his second sector was down again. It was Gasly who was taking advantage of the two Red Bulls in front. Verstappen couldn’t improve his lap, but Bottas was purple in all sectors and went four tenths clear at the top. Lewis fell short of his team-mate by a tenth of a second.

Lando Norris improved his time but could not jump Max Verstappen so he would only be fourth.

Bottas will be on pole for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Final classification

With so many investigations, this could change.

F1 2021 Dutch GP – QUalifying report: Max takes pole at his first home race!

It’s been a delayed by a year, but finally we get to see Formula One cars take to the Zandvoort track foe qualifying.

Max Verstappen finally got to the top of the timing sheets in FP3 and looked to be the driver to beat. But with Zandvoort being a new track, it was still unclear how the rest of the grid would form up.

But for the first time 36 years, it was time for qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Q1

After Kimi Raikkonen’s positive Covid-19 test, Robert Kubica was now taking his place in the Alfa Romeo. After his first run, he was faster than both Haas cars.

Vettel almost speared into the back of Nikita Mazepin as he met a Haas blockade. Credit: F1

Carlos Sainz was also back out of track after a heavy shunt in FP3. The Ferrari’s were looking quick in Practice and Leclerc was 4th after his first run. Sainz was 17th after his first run, but he improved all the way up to 8th on his second run.

Mercedes opted for the Medium tyres for their first runs and Lewis Hamilton was only 0.15 seconds off Max Verstappen who set his time on the softs.

Both Williams cars looked very competitive in the midfield with both Russell and Latifi looking fast. It was Aston Martin who seemed to be in trouble after the first runs and it didn’t get better.

Stroll could not get out of the bottom five after his second run while Vettel was right on the edge of danger.

Daniel Ricciardo was in real danger of dropping out, but he managed to recover and put his McLaren in 9th. Norris scraped through in 15th.

Sergio Perez could not get a second run in and as the track ramped up, the drivers behind were all able to put in faster lap time and he was eliminated.

Sebastian Vettel was also not able to complete his final flying lap as he was blocked by Nikita Mazepin as Vettel approached the final corner. He was out, but his team-mate Lance Stroll was able to escape and move into Q2.

Eliminated: Perez (16th), Vettel (17th), Kubica (18th), Schumacher (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

No medium tyres for Max Verstappen as he emerged for Q2.

Russell pushed a bit too hard and found himself in the gravel, bringing out the red flag. Credit:F1

Mercedes had opted for Medium tyres in Q1, but this time they also went for the soft tyres. Both Mercedes drivers could not get anywhere near Verstappen. Hamilton was over 6 tenths off Verstappen with Bottas another tenth off Lewis.

Lando Norris did not look comfortable in his McLaren. His first run was slower than both Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo and George Russell in the Williams.

McLaren’s rivals, Ferrari, were looking very fast. Leclerc topped Q1 and put his Ferrari above both Mercedes and into 2nd place.

Pierre Gasly also managed to leapfrog the Mercedes cars, nearly two tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton. After one run he already looked comfortably into Q3.

It looked even more comfortable when George Russel spun out on the final corner and brought out the red flag with just under four minutes to go. Luckily for Russell the car was not damaged and he was able to drive out of the gravel and bring his car back to the pits.

This put a lot of pressure on the likes of Lando Norris and other drivers towards the back to get a lap in.

But they wouldn’t get a lap in anyway. Nicolas Latifi in the other Williams crashed out with just over a minute and a half left. The red flag was brought out and the session would not restart. This was great news for Antonio Giovinazzi as he would progress to Q3.

Eliminated: Russell (11th), Stroll (12th), Norris (13th), Latifi (14th), Tsunoda (15th)

Q3

It didn’t look like anyone could touch Max Verstappen and it looked to be the case again from the start of Q3. He was 3 tenths faster than both Mercedes drivers.

Bottas was able to pip Hamilton by about half a tenth. Lewis’ lap was a little scrappy and couldn’t get a clean lap together, but despite that, he would have still been behind Max.

Ferrari were looking quick, but Pierre Gasly managed to go faster than them both and put his AlphaTauri in 4th place.

Giovinazzi had done an impressive run after his first run by putting himself in 8th, ahead of Ricciardo in 9th and Ocon in 10th.

As the drivers came out to do their final runs, it was going to be a big job for Mercedes to take pole off Max Verstappen.

Gasly held off the charge from the Ferrari’s and held onto fourth place. Giovinazzi improved his place and overtook Alonso for 7th place.

Max Verstappen improved his lap by half a tenth on his second run and this would prove to be crucial as Lewis was only 0.038 seconds off taking Pole off to home hero. Bottas couldn’t improve and will start 3rd.

Max is on pole and we have a great race on our hands for tomorrow.

Full classification

F1 2021 French Grand prix Qualifying report: Verstappen beats Both Mercedes to get pole at Paul Ricard

After a point-less weekend for the title contenders in Baku, both drivers were giving it all going into this weekend. But, aside from them, Charles Leclerc was looking for his third successive pole position in his Ferrari.

Max Verstappen was on fire going into qualifying, topping the timing sheets in FP3 by seven tenths of a second, but Mercedes did show good pace and so did Carlos Sainz. The battle was wide open going into Qualifying.

Here are the highlights from Qualifying!

Q1

The action started immediately in Q1 as Yuki Tsunoda put his car in the wall at the exit of turn 2. He hit the curb on the inside of the turn 1 and spun his car round. The crash brought out the red flag.

Another crash for Yuki in Qualifying, previously crashing in Imola and Baku. Credit: F1

Yuki tried to get the car into gear to pull away again but the car refused to go into first gear which forced him out of the session. This crash was Yuki’s third retirement from Qualifying this season.

All the cars lined up in the pitlane to get a lap in as the session resume with 14 minutes left to go. After the first round of fast laps it was Red Bull who was setting the pace with Max leading Perez in a Red Bull 1-2.

Track limits was a phrase being thrown around once again with Lance Stroll having his time deleted for going wide on the exit of turn 6. Before that he stuck his Aston Martin in 4th place. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel was also running well putting his car in 7th on his first run.

As the drivers were completing their final flying laps there was another red flag, this time it was Mick Schumacher in the wall. Mick was running in 14th place and managed to get into Q2 with the red flag, therefore would be starting in 15th tomorrow. Of course this will depend on the state of his gearbox.

It was unlucky for Lance Stroll who had no lap time due to track limits. His first attempt was hampered by traffic and the red flag meant he would start on the back row of the grid.

Along with Stroll and Tsunoda, Mazepin (18th), Raikkonen (17th) and Latifi (16th) were eliminated from Q1. Latifi missed out on Q2 by 0.002 seconds with Mr Saturday, George Russell making another Q2 appearance.

Q2

Q2 time and both Mercedes and Red Bull went out on the Medium tyres as expected. All the midfield teams also opted to go for the Mediums as well. Only George Russell went out on the soft tyres at the start of Q2. Williams hoping this strategy would get them into Q3.

Bottas fastest in Q2 on the mediums, could this be a sign for the race? Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Norris was another victim of track limits as his time was deleted for running wide at turn 6. His time would have been good enough for 6th place.

It was Sergio Perez who set the initial pace with Verstappen close behind. It looked as though Mercedes were looking to conserve their tyres as Bottas could only achieve 4th place, behind Carlos Sainz. Hamilton was further back in 6th.

Norris was forced to do another lap on his Medium tyres and put his McLaren in 7th place. He wasn’t the only driver to do multiple laps though. Hamilton stayed out for a second run and put himself at the top of the timing sheets by less than a tenth of a second.

Drivers did not opt for the softs for their second runs apart from Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Norris went out for his second run, however he was told to box. He wasn’t safe into Q3 so it would be tight if he would make it into the top 10 shootout.

He was saved though as the drivers behind struggled to improve. It was also great for Daniel Ricciardo as he would not have to start the race on the soft tyres.

It was disappointment though for Ocon in his home race as he could only put his Alpine in 11th. Alonso in the other Alpine though did make it into Q3, putting his car in 8th.

The drivers eliminated in Q2 were Mick Schumacher (15th), George Russell (14th), Antonio Giovinazzi (13th), Sebastian Vettel (12th) and Esteban Ocon (11th).

Q3

Time for the final shootout. It was one a piece between Mercedes and Red Bull, but it did look as though Red Bull had the pace advantage on the soft tyres.

Mercedes looked very quick on the Medium tyres so they could choose to make the switch for the second run if Red Bull had too much of an advantage.

Max gets his second pole position this season, his first coming in Bahrain. Credit F1

Norris did emerge for Q3 despite pitting early in Q2 and not completing a second run.

Verstappen was the first to set a lap time out of the front runners and, despite going a bit wide at turn 2, he put it on provisional pole, four tenths of a second faster than Hamilton.

Perez was third, a tenth behind Lewis with Bottas three tenths further back in fourth. It was going to be a big ask for Lewis to make up 4 tenths of a second, but he is a seven-time world champion.

As the drivers went out for their final flying laps, pressure was on Pierre Gasly who had his lap time deleted for tack limits.

Lewis set the fastest first sector and was keeping up in the middle sector. However, Verstappen went a further 3 tenths faster than his first lap and it was too much to ask for Lewis to beat it. Lewis managed to find half a second, but Verstappen took his second pole position this season.

Bottas pipped Perez to get third place and Carlos Sainz was just behind in 5th.

It is game on for the race tomorrow and it’s going to be a big ask for Max to keep those Mercedes behind.

Full classification

F1 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: FP1 & FP2 report – Red Bull dominates as Mercedes are nowhere to be seen

It’s been two years, but Formula One returns to Baku for Friday practice.

After Red Bull’s dominance over Mercedes in Monaco, it would be interesting to see if Mercedes could make up ground on the charging bulls, but it didn’t seem to be the case.

It was a dominant day for Red Bull, as they set the fastest laps in both sessions today. Mercedes were either having a horrible day or keeping their cards very close to their chest. So let’s see how today’s sessions played out!

FP1

Unsurprisingly, it was Max Verstappen who set the pace in first practice, but he had both Ferraris for company.

However, the talk of FP1 was dominated with the talk of flexi wings. The FIA were doing tests to measure how much various team’s rear wings flexed under high speed.

This debate has been going on for some time now, but the FIA are using this weekend to gather data and then give further guidance to teams.

Back to the on-track action and the mobile Russian chicane was having a field day of ruining people’s laps, including Max Verstappen’s first flying lap. Luckily for the Dutchman, he was able to put in a second flying lap which took him to the top of the timing sheets.

But it was far from plain sailing for the rest of the field as many drivers ended up facing the wrong way throughout the session as they wrestled with the windy conditions.

Yuki Tsunoda almost re-created Mahaveer Raghunathan’s embarrassing Baku moment as he struggled to find reverse after locking up at Turn 4.

It was Turn 15 that drivers were finding the most difficult with Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz all having their own moments.

Turn 2 had it’s own share of drivers using it’s escape road with Bottas and Norris using it at the same time late on in the session.

So, while Red Bull topped the time sheets, Mercedes could not find time to set a clean lap, so they ended up further down the time sheets. Lewis Hamilton was 7th and Bottas was 10th.

It was the two Ferrari cars who were just behind Verstappen, continuing to show their pace from Monaco and then closely followed by the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, who is looking to put his Monaco performance behind him.

FP2

The second practice session continued as the first one ended.

Plenty of cars were taking to the escape road, with turn 15 proving to be a real problem for the drivers. For Charles Leclerc it was more than a small problem. Leclerc was on a fast lap before locking both front tyres going down hill and put his Ferrari in the wall.

Luckily, it was not as damaging as his crash at Turn 8 back in 2019. He was able to reverse out of the wall and drive back to the pits for a new front wing.

That incident was not the only stoppage of the session as Nicholas Latifi ran into engine issues which brought his session to end 20 minutes into second practice.

Juts like in Free practice one, it was Red Bull dominance once again with Sergio Perez topping the timing charts with Verstappen just behind.

Ferrari were again just behind both Charging Bulls and despite his crash, Leclerc still put his Ferrari in 4th.

Mercedes were in no man’s land yet again with neither driver breaking into the top 10. On a brighter note though, Mercedes showed that their pace on the medium tyres was very competitive with Red Bull’s pace on the soft tyre.

This could mean that tyre strategy in qualifying tomorrow could be key.

Tyres were a big talking point with both Ferraris complaining of graining on the soft tyres and Max getting vibrations the more laps he did on the soft tyre.

With all this uncertainty with the tyres on longer runs, we could see a mixture of tyre strategies for the race which could make this race very interesting.

Could Ferrari be a competitor this weekend?

In both sessions today Ferrari were asserting themselves as the second fastest team on the grid, only a few tenths off Red Bull.

If not for Leclerc’s crash in qualifying, Ferrari would have had an incredibly positive weekend in Monaco, and they are looking to replicate again this weekend.

Ferrari are showing very strong short-run pace which could cause some upsets in Qualifying so Red Bull will have to be very wary of the Prancing horses would are looking very fast behind them.

FP1 Classifcation

FP2 Classification

Grid Talk podcast

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more F1 content? Why not check out the Grid Talk’s Azerbaijan Prixview hosted by Ruby Price and this week is joined by George Howson, Steve Jackson from Formula Shakedown and Phillip Matthew from the Grid Strip podcast.

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

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview the F1 2021 season?

Steph Wentworth hosted panellists Owain Medford, Steve Jackson and YouTuber Lucas Raycevik in Grid Talk’s review of the F1 2021 Car reveals:

F1 2021 testing Preview: what can we expect from the teams?

So, testing is just around the corner now, and despite the fact the cars are almost the same as last year, there will be plenty of eyes on how the teams get on.

There are only three days of testing this year, so it’s more important than ever for teams to hit the ground running. There are new aerodynamic regulations for this year, so the cars so teams will want to get to grips with the new parts for 2021.

Teams will not want to miss a single day of testing, because it could have huge repercussions for the upcoming season. So, what can you expect from the teams in testing this year? That’s what I’m here to answer.

Mercedes

The reigning champions will of course be hoping that their car is still the fastest on the grid, despite the new regulations.

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1

Mercedes were very secretive with the development that they did on their barge boards and floor during their car launch, so eyes will be on what they came up to tackle the new regulations. This team have always come up with ingenious innovations to tackle any regulation change, and I’m hoping that this year will be no different.

Mercedes did report that they were having issues with their new engine. With reliability being key over the next three days, the last thing they need is any engine trouble. That also goes for the three other teams running Mercedes engines.

READ MORE: F1 2021 CAR REVEALS: MERCEDES W12 – HOW IT COMPARES TO THE W11

Mercedes will be hoping to do what they usually do during testing. Get as many laps done as possible. While they may not set the lap charts on fire, expect Mercedes to still have a very good package.

Red Bull Racing

There was nothing shockingly different between the RB16 and the new RB16B, but this doesn’t mean Red Bull are going to settle for second place.

Credit: Red Bull Racing

Red Bull will be hoping to keep the reliability issues to a minimum, but the main focus will be on Sergio Perez.

While Perez has done some private testing with the RB15, this will be his first time in the RB16B. He’ll only have one and a half days of running to get to grips with a totally new car.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1’S 5 MOST ICONIC ENGINES EVER

Surely, he can’t do any worse than Gasly in his first test with the team!

The car is built around Max, which will make Perez’s job that bit harder, but as an experienced driver, I expect him to adapt well and hit the ground running.

McLaren

Out of all the teams on the grid, the most pressure to get off to a good start is on McLaren. McLaren have changed the most on their chassis to accommodate the new Mercedes engine.

Credit McLaren F1

McLaren will be hoping to retain third in the championship, but they know it’s going to be a tough challenge.

Unlike Perez, Ricciardo has had some limited testing of the MCL35M in a shakedown test at Silverstone. So, while his experience may be limited, he does have some time in the new car. It will be interesting to see how Lando and Daniel compare right out the gate.

READ MORE F1: IN THE PIT LANE – THE UAE FLASH THE CASH

McLaren were also very secretive with their barge boards and floor, so other teams will want to a snap of what they have done. There’s a lot of expectation on McLaren, time to see what they can do!

Aston Martin

It may be a new name, but expectations will be high. They under-performed last year, given their car was basically a 2019 Mercedes, they still couldn’t escape the midfield.

Credit: Aston Martin F1 team

This year is going to be a lot tougher with all their rivals looking to catch them.

Aston Martin’s big mystery is all about Sebastian Vettel and fans will be hoping that he puts his ‘spinny’ past behind him.

READ MORE: F1 CAR REVEALS 2021: ASTON MARTIN AMR21 – WHAT’S CHANGED FROM THE RP20?

Aston will be hoping at the end of the three days that they look competitive in the midfield again so they can challenge for third in the championship.

Personally, I can’t wait to see the livery out on track. I know there have been a few images from their shakedown, but to see it in the sun of Bahrain will be a sight to see.

Alpine

Just like Aston Martin, it may be a new name but it’s very much the same team.

Alpine will be hoping that they are more competitive this season. While two podiums may not seem so bad, they were very inconsistent.

Credit: Alpine F1

This meant their attempt to battle for third was an uphill challenge. This year they are going to have to make sure that their car is a lot better.

With Ferrari potentially being a big contender this year, Alpine will have to wow us all with their car during testing.

READ MORE: F1 2021 CAR REVEALS: ALPINE A521 – HOW DOES IT STACK UP AGAINST THE RENAULT R.S.20?

This test will also be Fernando Alonso’ first time in the car. He has been doing some private testing in the 2019 Renault, but it will be a big adjustment for Fernando.

While two years may not seem like a long time, things move fast in Formula One and it can be difficult to readjust to the new Formula. All eyes will be on Fernando during his first outing.

Ferrari

This test is going to be huge for Ferrari. After a very dismal year, the only way is up for the team in Scarlett red.

Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Mattia Binotto has stressed that Ferrari have taken leap with their power unit as well as their aerodynamic efficiency. Straight line speed plagued them last season and if they can make good on their promises then we could see a very competitive car.

Bahrain is a perfect track for us to see just how good these changes are. I can’t imagine that Ferrari will be looking to set the timing screen alight, but if they can get some good, consistent running then it could set them up very nicely.

READ MORE: F1 CAR REVEALS 2021: FERRARI SF21 – WILL THE SF1000’S SUCCESSOR GET MARANELLO BACK TO WINNING WAYS?

I have high hopes for Ferrari this year and with Carlos Sainz being a new addition to the team, it will be interesting to see how he compares to Charles Leclerc.

Like most drivers, Sainz has been doing some private testing at Fiorano, but we won’t get to see how he truly gets on until his run out.

AlphaTauri

It was a very good season for AlphaTauri last season, and I think we can just expect more of the same.

I don’t expect them to be at the same pace as the rest of the midfield, but I would expect them to be there or thereabouts.

Credit: AlphaTauri

Alpha Tauri are another team with a new driver in their car this season. Yuki Tsunoda is continuing his meteoric rise through the ranks and now finds himself in the top tier.

Tsunoda took part in the young drivers test at the end of last season as well as private testing in the AT02 at Imola.

READ MORE: F1 2021 CAR REVEALS: ALPHATAURI AT02 – HOW IT COMPARES TO LAST YEAR’S AT01

There is no doubt that Tsunoda is quick, but he will need to adapt quicky if he is to survive the tough expectations of the Red Bull Junior programme.

There will also be eyes on Gasly gets to grip with this car as he was one of the standout drivers from 2020.

Alfa Romeo

I don’t think many people expect much from Alfa Romeo this season. They have the same driver line-up as 2020 and with the regulations, we are not expecting a much different car.

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing

Alfa Romeo did make some notable changes on their which was picked up when the car launched last month, but I highly doubt it is going to make the Alfa Romeo a competitive car.

Alfa Romeo did have to suffer with the awful Ferrari engine last season, so the team and fans will be glad to put the new one to the test.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – WILL ALFA ROMEO AND SAUBER’S RELATIONSHIP CONTINUE?

Rather than looking forwards, Alfa Romeo will likely be looking over their shoulders during this test. It is an unknown at this point how the Williams or Haas will perform this season, and they will be big competition for the Italians.

All Alfa Romeo can do for now is make sure to get through all three days will no issues.

Haas

Haas have already said that they have given up on development of their 2021 car already. So, don’t expect it to be very quick.

Credit: Haas F1 team

Haas will be using this test mostly to get their drivers up to speed. While both Schumacher and M*****n have had experience in Formula one cars, they are yet to drive the new car.

The goal for both drivers will be to get as many miles driven as possible and pray that nothing goes wrong. Haas were hampered with crashes and spins last year. That could have been down to the two drivers they had in car, but it did them no favours.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – WHO IS FORMULA 1’S NEWEST BILLIONAIRE INVESTOR?

Haas will be hoping that Schumacher and M*****n can keep the car on the track and out of the barriers.

Not expecting much from Haas, but they could surprise me.

Williams

Williams come into this year with new owners and a new livery, but the same drivers.

They will be hoping that this year will bring more fortune that the last few. Williams made significant strides in pace last year, and fans will be hoping that it will be the same again.

Credit: Williams F1

Alfa Romeo and Haas will be Williams’ biggest rivals this season. The first test this season for them is to see how close they can get to them in testing.

Next will be to get laps on the board and make sure they have no issues. While the Williams may not be very quick, it’s always been very reliable. Williams will be hoping the FW43B is no different.

READ MORE: F1 CAR REVEALS 2021: WILLIAMS FW43B – DOES THE B-SPEC IMPROVE ON THE FW43?

Finally, it would make sense to have both drivers be in the car during testing, however that will not be the case. Test driver Roy Nissany will be in the car on the first day. Meaning Latifi and Russell will both get half a day less running than the other drivers.

So, it’s not long to go now until the 2021 Formula One season gets under way and I can’t wait. While I should stress that you should NOT read too much into testing, we will learn a lot about these cars over the next three days.