F1 arrives in Qatar for the very first time and Friday practice was, for many of the drivers, their first look at the track. This track has been used for MotoGP for many years, so it would be interesting to see how the F1 cars get on.
With three races left, the tension has really ramped up in the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Today’s session would give us an insight if Mercedes could have another dominant weekend.
Let’s get straight in Friday Practice!
It took a while for the drivers to finally get to grips with the new track, but no matter how much preparations the drivers do, there will always be those who push the limits a bit too hard and get punished for it.
The two Haas drivers were the first to start pushing the track limits as Mazepin went wide at turn 4 and kicked up a lot of dust. Schumacher pushed the limits a bit too much and found himself having a trip through the gravel at the end of the session.
Plenty of drivers were kicking up dust onto the track and the kerbs were also providing a spectacular show. George Russell ran wide and sparks were literally flying, I’m sure Williams would have a look at the floor after that.
McLaren would have definitely looked as Norris ran wide and a piece a bodywork flew off the car as he went over the kerbs.
As the session went on, the time were tumbling as the dust clears and the track rubbered in. But, it was Max Verstappen who was looking comfortable at the top of the timing sheets.
Lance Stroll’s session ended prematurely as he suffered a brake by wire problem which ruled him out of the session.
Problems then hit Lando Norris as he was crawling down the pit-lane. It appeared as though he was having some engine issues. The replays showed him riding the kerbs very aggressively again which seemed to have caused the issue. Lando was able to roll his car down the pit-lane to the garage and got back out on track later in the session.
Lewis Hamilton then looked to have an issue with his front wing as the Mercedes mechanics were having a very close look at the problem.
When the session ended, it was Max Verstappen who topped the timing sheets followed by Pierre Gasly.
We were now under the lights in Qatar as the drivers took to the track for Free Practice 2.
The stewards had taken a very laisse-faire attitude to track limits in FP1 as they looked to see where the drivers were gaining an advantage. The stewards had decided that they were going to use the purple and white kerbs as the track limits.
There would be an absence from this session as Nikita Mazepin required a brand new chassis after the old one was damaged during FP1.
It was an immediate battle between Red Bull and Mercedes as all four drivers topped the timing sheets as one point as they explored the track on the Medium tyres. But, it was Valterri Bottas who was looking comfortably quickest at the top.
The kerbs were still proving to be troubling for a few drivers. Lance Stroll who was having problems in FP1 had a moment over the kerbs and so did Antonio Giovinazzi. We saw a huge piece of bodywork fly off the back of the Alfa Romeo.
Max Verstappen was trying his hardest to wrestle his Red Bull closer to Valterri Bottas, but he couldn’t quite do it. He was losing time in all sectors as his Red Bull looked to be struggling to find the right balance.
As the cars ditched their quick runs and settled into their long runs, some drivers were being plagued by traffic issues. Sebastian Vettel ran into traffic twice in one lap as he was held up by both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.
For others, the dust was still roving to be a bit of a problem. Lewis Hamilton went straight on at turn1 and kicked up plenty of dust as he re-joined the track.
Charles Leclerc dipped a wheel on the AstroTurf which dragged him into the gravel trap. He was fortunate not to get bogged down and re-joined the track.
But at the end of the session it was Valtteri Bottas who was fastest followed by Pierre Gasly and then Max Verstappen.
Bahrain 2.0 for Tsunoda?
We have slowly seen Yuki Tsunoda ditch his demons and start to be more competitive, but we have yet to see a performance that rivals is first race in Bahrain all the way back in April.
However, Yuki Tsunoda has been looking very competitive so far this weekend. He has been a lot closer to Pierre Gasly this weekend and been generally competitive in the midfield.
AlphaTauri are currently in a tight battle with Alpine for 5th in the Constructor’s championship and while Pierre Gasly has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting for AlphaTauri this season, Yuki Tsunoda will have to start pulling his weight if he hopes to aid his team to 5th.
If there is a track that could be good for Yuki Tsunoda, it does look as though the Losail track could be a good fit for him.
Pierre Gasly has been looking phenomenally quick so far, finishing 2nd in FP1 and FP2. It will be quite the achievement if he can be faster than both Red Bulls this weekend, but certainly he could be up there.
Time will tell for AlphaTauri this weekend, but pace from today looks very promising.