Newly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in first practice at the Bahrain International Circuit, ahead of his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas – while Sergio Perez was third quickest for Racing Point.
Pirelli’s prototype tyres for the 2021 season were available for the teams to run in the session, and will be run for a minimum of six laps by all drivers in FP2 this evening in Bahrain.
Hamilton topped the timesheets early on as the circuit was covered in a light dusting of sand, before he switched to Pirelli prototypes and then improved on medium compounds to post a 1m29.033s lap time. His team mate Bottas was 0.449s off the pace in second place on the same compounds.
Racing Point, just ahead of McLaren, Renault and Ferrari in a fierce fight for third in the constructors’ championship, had Turkish GP podium-finisher Sergio Perez third quickest in this session – nearly a second off Hamilton – and Istanbul pole-sitter Lance Stroll ninth. Both set their fastest times on softs.
FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2020
Practice 1 results
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:29.033|
|2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.449s|
|3 Sergio PEREZ Racing Point||+0.967s|
|4 Carlos SAINZ McLaren||+0.985s|
|5 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||+1.016s|
McLaren’s Ferrari-bound driver Carlos Sainz was fourth overall, just behind Perez, as the last driver within a second of Hamilton. Sainz’s team mate Lando Norris was 18th in the session, ahead of the Williams duo.
Former Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly will stay at AlphaTauri for 2021 and he went briefly top in the session on medium compounds before falling to fifth overall. His team mate Daniil Kvyat, who hasn’t yet been confirmed at the Faenza-based team and said on Thursday that his chances of staying are ‘slim’, finished 17th fastest.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon took seventh and finished just 0.007s behind sixth-place team mate Max Verstappen in a stronger showing for the Thai driver, while Verstappen spun at Turn 15 with 30 minutes remaining. The Dutchman clocked just 18 laps in the session.
The Renaults were split by Racing Point’s Stroll, with Esteban Ocon a late improver to P8 on softs and Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10 on mediums.
As for Ferrari, last year’s Bahrain GP pole-sitter Charles Leclerc ran wide at Turn 3 but continued on to finish 11th as Ferrari tested various parts throughout the session – perhaps with a view to 2021. Team mate Sebastian Vettel finished just off Leclerc in P12 with both Ferrari drivers having used softs to set their fastest laps.
Robert Kubica, now finished with his 2020 DTM campaign, stood in for Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo and finished 13th, ahead of Italian team mate Antonio Giovinazzi (16th).
Romain Grosjean brought out the first yellow flag of the session with an off deep into the Turn 7 gravel. The Haas driver, out of a drive in 2021, finished 14th in the session while his team mate Kevin Magnussen took 15th. The Dane is expected to make a switch Stateside for next year, while both Haas drivers have been in talks with IndyCar squads.
Williams rounded out the standings with Nicholas Latifi 19th and FP1 stand-in Roy Nissany 20th. The Israeli F2 driver impressed Williams last time out and this time around the team stated that he would concentrate on “rear-wing performance as well as looking at some development items”, as he took George Russell’s car for the session.
Russell will return for FP2, which he pinpointed as being the most pivotal session ahead of qualifying in Bahrain. Join us on F1.com at 1800 local time for live coverage and the latest news on the second practice session.