Mercedes, Ferrari and Haas talked about their troubles on Day 1 of Bahrain F1 Test, as others joined in about their running.
After months of wait, things finally got going at Bahrain International Circuit on Day 1 of the 2021 F1 pre-season test. It didn’t start off well for Mercedes, though, where Valtteri Bottas couldn’t hit the track due to gear-shifting issue needing a gearbox change.
He finished last with six laps against his name and even at the hands of Lewis Hamilton, it was handful in tricky conditions with 42 laps. “It’s been a poor start to the season from us,” said Andrew Shovlin. “We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis.
“Once we got running it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window and while we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do. We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed.”
Among the drivers, Bottas had good track conditions but couldn’t run with the issue, while Hamilton faced sandstorm which made it tricky. The second session wasn’t without its challenges, but we exist to find solutions to the problems we’re faced with,” said the Brit. “We just had a good debrief and we’ll keep working away.
“I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit. The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult. Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.”
Facing similar challenge of replacing the gearbox was Haas F1 Team, which curtailed the running for Mick Schumacher. The German just managed 15 laps to Nikita Mazepin’s 70, even though the Russian faced the sandy circuit, where even had a spin to get through.
“Fortunately, we got a few laps in at the end. I was happy to take them, happy to be in the car, and happy to push at times and try some things,” said Schumacher. “Conditions weren’t great with a sandstorm coming in, but it was still valuable time in the car. It’s been very gusty here – it makes it very unpredictable; it can feel different from corner to corner really. That’s something you have to get used to. F1 cars these days are very wind-affected, any little gust of wind sets off the car massively.”
While it wasn’t the gearbox for Ferrari F1, they still had moments with both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. With the former, it was a red flag situation where he was asked to stop after the team found ‘an anomaly with the combustion spotted on the telemetry’.
Despite some offs and moments, both Leclerc and Sainz felt pretty good with their running programme, without giving away much about their runs. While the two spoke little, their F1 rival Max Verstappen had a jolly time on top abode the Red Bull RB16B.
Verstappen did have a spin early on but post that, it was rather smooth. “We had a very positive day and managed a lot of laps even though the track conditions were quite difficult,” he said. “It was very warm with a lot of wind and we know the degradation is always high around here so I’m very happy with how it went.
“We aimed for this number of laps and when you can complete a full programme like this the Team can also be pleased with the information we have. The main thing is that the car felt nice to drive, so it’s a positive start,” summed up Verstappen, as Red Bull F1 teammate Sergio Perez will finally have his first go on Saturday.
Moving on to Aston Martin, it was finally the chance for Sebastian Vettel to drive a brand new machine other than Ferrari. He didn’t lit up the timing charts but the team looks like played the smart game of setting the time on Prototype tyres for both him and Lance Stroll.
“It was a very productive morning and really the first opportunity we’ve had to truly put the AMR21 through its paces,” said Vettel. “As I expected, there are a lot of new things to learn. I’m working with a different power unit compared to the past, which means there are lots of new procedures involved.
“Then there’s a new steering wheel with all its buttons, and different braking too – so I’m very aware that there is a lot to learn. The important thing is that I know where we can improve. It was tricky on track because it was so windy out there; you could see that everyone was fighting for grip.”
Continuing on the first day trend, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was equally pumped after setting the fastest time in the morning session. The Australian had a trouble-free run, as did his teammate Lando Norris, especially with the Mercedes F1 engine on the MCLM35.
“It was really good to get back out in the car for my first proper session with McLaren,” said Ricciardo. “I was able to push the car a little bit and get more familiar with it. It was a smooth morning, everything ran well and that’s all you can ask in F1 testing – you want reliability on your side and the team back in Woking has done an awesome job of giving us a great start on day one. We got a good amount of runs and laps done, with a focus on getting more and more familiar and comfortable in the car.”
Among others, it was a solid performance from Alpine at the hands of Esteban Ocon, who went through relatively with no troubles on his side, with over 100 laps on board. “It was a solid one for the F1 team, we completed the programme with ease and we even had time at the end of the day to do pit-stop practice with the team, which was quite nice as it meant we could get ourselves back into race situations,” he said.
“We put in some decent laps today and we learned everything we set out to achieve and that’s exactly what you need during test days. We faced all kinds of conditions as well: heat this morning then strong gusts and a sandstorm this afternoon, so pretty much everything except rain. That was interesting but we did what we needed to.”
For AlphaTauri, meanwhile, it was going all well for Pierre Gasly and even to the extent for Yuki Tsunoda until they discovered a fuel system issues in the afternoon, which cut short the day for the Japanese F1 driver. He only managed 37 laps to teammate’s 74.
But laptime wise – even though less countable – they were only 0.496s apart, where Gasly set his best on C3 and Tsunoda on C2. Overall, both were happy with the car, which was similar for Alfa Romeo Racing pair and also Williams’ Roy Nissany.
Here’s how Day 1 of Bahrain F1 Test panned out
Here’s the Bahrain F1 Test line-up