Even based on the results of pre-season testing, bold forecasts indicated that Aston Martin could surprise. But the tests don’t give a clear picture of the lineup. But after the first day of the racing weekend, we can say for sure: the team in green colors managed to surprise and received a breakthrough in the interest of the spectators. But the favorite for Red Bull confirmed that the team is not going to give up the top positions.
Red Bull is still favorite
A week ago, in the pre-season tests, the Red Bull drivers took the first places in their categories: Perez – according to the results of all the tests with softer tyres, Verstappen is the fastest on C3 tyres. The RB19 showed stability, and the first free practice session at the Bahrain Grand Prix confirmed that the Milton Keynes team’s cars will be the main favorites of the season.
The best session time for Mexican Sergio Pérez is 1:32.758. By the way, this result was confirmed by another forecast – Pirelli tires really got faster. By way of comparison, the best result a year ago in the first free practice session, belonging to Pierre Gasly, was 1.34.193.
At first glance, Perez’s lead might also seem unusual. Until the last minutes of the session, he led his teammate Max Verstappen by 0.617 seconds, who was in the second half at that time. And Lando Norris lost 1,407 seconds, Leclerc almost one and a half. An abyss by Formula 1 standards. At the end of the session, however, Fernando Alonso slipped into second place, but also lost 0.438sec to Pérez.
However, there is a perfectly logical explanation for this.
Will Aston Martin have a say?
The first free practice session in Bahrain is characterized by not providing objective information. In it, the drivers don’t make qualifying attempts, they don’t do serious racing simulations. The first and third sessions take place during the day, starting at 2:30 p.m., when the asphalt is very hot, the sun shines bright and strong. But qualifying and the race will start at 6:00 p.m., when the sun has almost disappeared on the horizon, the asphalt has cooled, which radically changes the conditions on the track. Therefore, all the attention and the main part of the work was devoted only to the second session: the conditions and time of its holding are identical to those of qualifying and race.
Hence the greater density of results: the first 11 drivers fit in 0.7 seconds. But in this top ten, only the Red Bull and Aston Martin drivers are in their entirety. But the rest are Haas, McLaren, Alpin, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Ferrari. Each of the favorites had some problems. Verstappen spoke about the lack of stability in the car, Leclerc about the bad grip in the car.
Stroll complained of pain in his hand, but the consequences of the injury and the operation are being felt. But still, the main surprise was presented by Aston Martin.
Alonso set the fastest time of the session, 0.169 seconds ahead of Verstappen and 0.171 seconds ahead of Pérez. Leclair is already down 0.460sec on the leader. How significant this is we can only find out in the race and qualifying.
Of course, it is hard to believe that Aston Martin could challenge Red Bull, but an interesting championship fight with Ferrari and Mercedes is very possible. And again the comparison: Verstappen obtained the best result of last year in the second session: 1.31.936. This year Alonso did a lap of 1:30.907.
Mercedes and Ferrari are behind
Of course, it is still too early to say that the other two members of the “Big Three”, “Ferrari” and “Mercedes”, are facing problems that will not allow them to compete on equal terms with Red Bull. But the anxious worms of doubt made themselves felt. At Ferrari, following the results of the first session, Leclerc was 5th, Sainz-20th (but this is the consequence of a run off the track, after which the Spaniard returned to the pits and did not come out again). Second session – Leclerc – 4th, Sainz – 14th. And if at Scuderia Leclerc pleases, then at Mercedes everything is somewhat more complicated. In the first session, Hamilton and Russell posted times 10 and 11. In the second session Hamilton – 8, Russell – 13. The fact that both drivers are not fast makes those eager worms move more actively.
In any case, qualifying for the first stage promises to be interesting. Who will take the first pole of the season? We will have the answer to this question on Saturday.