The Friday in F1 Bahrain GP gave first chance to the teams and drivers properly show their hands in differing conditions ahead of the rest of the weekend/season.

After six days of testing in Barcelona and Bahrain, teams and drivers had a first proper go in the 2022 machine during Friday of F1 Bahrain GP. Although there’s the bigger picture of qualifying and race to come, but the practice done is all towards it.

While Red Bull and Ferrari seemed to have had a relatively better run in the two sessions, Mercedes struggled for balance and pace in both the sessions. Not just the single lap pace, but the long run pace didn’t look proper from the eight-time champions.

The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell noted that there is no easy fix to their problems and it will take more time to get it done. It seemed like both know what exactly is ailing them, but naturally didn’t wished to divulge. Also, the former had DRS issues in FP2.

At the same time, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc seemed pretty relaxed with their outing. Even Sergio Perez felt good, but despite ending up third two times, Carlos Sainz felt something was missing on his side especially on the one lap pace.

Hamilton: “We’ve had small problems in the past relatively to this year. We’re faced with much, much bigger problems this year. And everything we do to try and kind of fix it doesn’t really change that. It appears there’s probably going to be a more longer-term fix, so nothing in the short term. My front two discs were at different temperatures, the left one running cooler and the right one coming up in temperature, so when hitting the brakes the right one was pulling the steering. It meant you didn’t get the laps in so that wasn’t great but it’s not a major issue.

“The bouncing we’re experiencing is losing us downforce compared to the others which is making it much harder out there. As you can we are long way off. We’re not bluffing like people assume we were, so it is what it is, we’ll work as hard as we can to get through it and do what we can. I have been trying to improve the set-up but it is not the set-up that is the issue, there is some other issues that need to be inbuilt in future. At the moment, we’re not going to be in the race for the win here, we’re not going to be in the race for the win here,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is a long, long way ahead.

“It’s in the region of eight-to-ninth tenths ahead of us and Ferrari is probably something like half a second, six tenths ahead of us. So we’re fighting and scrapping with whoever is behind them and I am trying to do the best and getting the maximum but it is what it is, we will work together as a team and get through it.”

Russell: “It’s clear it’s all about lap time and we are certainly not where we want to be. I think we made a bit of progress solving some issues but the pace is just not there at the moment. So we need to really go over the data tonight to really understand why we’re both struggling with the car. We’re a long way off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari.

“Even the likes of Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri seem on our pace or even quicker, so we’ve got a bit of work to do. I think the high fuel pace is a bit more representative and we were consistently over a second slower than where our rivals are. I need to look into the data a bit further. Maybe there’s a reason for it but from our side, we’re definitely not overly happy with the car right now and we’ve got some work to do. But if anyone can, our team can, so let’s see.”

“We are truly throwing everything at it at the moment to try and unlock the potential that we think is there, but we’re just really struggling to tap into it at the minute. Everything we try is maybe one step forward and two steps back and there’s always a limitation. It’s going to take time, we hoped we would have solved it but how things stand at the moment, we aren’t in the fight and we’ve got some work to do.”

Verstappen: “Yes, the car felt good. I mean, of course we have been testing here so I think overall you are in a better window to start with. I felt alright. We tried a few things on the car and they all seemed to be working well and yes, quite a straightforward and smooth day actually, so I’m really happy with that. Both, short run, long run… Very pleased, but you can see, Ferrari’s pushing hard and they are very close and that’s very exciting as well.

“We have to wait and see a little bit, also with the engine modes tomorrow from all the teams, to really see where you are. It’s good for the championship. I think that’s in general what everyone wants, right? The teams a bit closer together. And I think over time they will only get closer, so that’s good. But again, we have to wait and see tomorrow when everyone is turning their engines up fully how much is really in it.”

Leclerc: “Okay, nobody is on the absolute limit of the car but there haven’t been any bad surprises today, which is good. It seems like we’re in the mix, more or less, which is good. It gives us a bit of a smile, but there’s still a lot of work to do for tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be able to fight for pole. I’m quite confident with the car.

“It’s all about trying to test the limits today; to not do the same mistakes tomorrow. I went for it and at the end we did the fast lap on the second lap, so I think there’s a bit of margin still, so it’s not looking too bad. But today went well, we tested a lot of things… and all the changes that we’ve done made us progress. So we need to do the same step for tomorrow, and then hopefully we’ll have the car to fight.”

Behind them, it seems like an open area with the likes of AlphaTauri, Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and Haas, all of them doing their bits. McLaren, meanwhile, didn’t do much as they tried to get through their plan of completing enough lap times to ascertain the fixed they are bringing for their brake issues. On top of that, Daniel Ricciardo didn’t do much running in FP2 after having a leak in the car.

For AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly felt the colder conditions didn’t suit their car after topping the times in the day time. Similarly, Alexander Albon talked about driving through the problem of wind in his Williams F1 car, where he finished last in FP2. On Haas side, Kevin Magnussen was beaming with confidence, while Nico Hulkenberg had a bit of a shock in learning the new cars.

Norris: “I think it was an average day. We still go through our run plans, and I think we have a better understanding of our brakes, and the issues we had and how much they are fixed and so on. It doesn’t feel any different. Feel-wise it will never feel any different. ‘Do they catch fire or not?’ is the question. I think there is a step forward for sure, I just don’t know how big of a step forward it is just yet.”

Magnussen: “The car’s been feeling good all day, again, like last week. We got to FP1, we were focusing a little more on race set-up and race feeling, we weren’t trying to set a lap time. FP2 we did a quali sim, still not fully going for it, but more like a quali sim, and that looked better on the times. I think long runs were what I was really curious by. The car felt so consistent, lap times were really strong, so yeah, still super excited!

“At this point I don’t know where people are. Especially when you look at long run pace, it is very up and down, even between team mates. Let’s see. So far I’m feeling good, we’re happy to be here and with a good car. Excited for tomorrow. I can’t even believe what’s going on. It’s like so cool man, it’s surreal. I feel very lucky.

“From a driving perspective it’s pretty much the same car as last week, which was nice just to pick up where you left and continue doing laps and get more at one with the car. We were really happy in long runs, that’s where the car really feels strong. It’s not that it felt bad in quali runs but it really felt good in long runs. Excited to see where we are come Sunday – so far a good start.”

Gasly: “We’ve had two very different sessions today; we topped the timings in FP1 and then in the second session we were P13, so two very contrasting outcomes. I think purely for us the hotter track conditions helped, the car really seemed to click, but tonight we struggled massively in the cold. We need to look through everything and understand what happened, especially as qualifying and the race are both at night here in Bahrain. I think our long run pace was slightly better than the shorter runs, but still we’ve got a lot of work to do to fully understand our performance in these conditions.”

Hulkenberg: “I think today was promising for me: it was all about getting up to speed with the car. I spoke to Sebastian yesterday and he gave me his feedback and insight, so it is always good to have that preparation before jumping into the car. However, I was surprised by how different it was, the feel of the tyre, in particular, and the braking process. I am happy with my feeling in the car, though, and how I was able to build on every run to feel more and more comfortable. There is always room for more and we will keep working to make progress. This weekend will be a good challenge and I will enjoy every lap in the car.”

Albon: “It’s been good to get back out on track today and do some running in conditions that are more representative of those we’ll be racing in. I think we’re all aware that the car felt better in Barcelona. Historically Bahrain is a track that we struggle with and the wind, sand and heat doesn’t help, but we’re understanding the limitations and adapting our driving style to cope with the challenges. The team have a strong direction that we’re pushing for and we’re all very motivated, so I think we’re making progress.”

Here’s how FP1 of F1 Bahrain GP panned out

Here’s how FP2 of F1 Bahrain GP panned out