George Russell made a flying start to his weekend as Mercedes’ super-sub by going quickest in the first practice session of the Sakhir Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, as the drivers got their first taste of the ‘Outer Loop’ track configuration in Bahrain.
In the absence of Lewis Hamilton, who is self-isolating with Covid-19 this weekend, Russell has taken his place at Mercedes this weekend and finished his first session with a lap of 54.546s on this rapid layout of Bahrain International Circuit. Russell’s lap was 0.332s faster than team mate Valterri Bottas’s best effort, who was fourth quickest behind Russell and the two Red Bulls.
Red Bull occupied P2 and P3, with Verstappen 0.176s off Russell’s pace and Alex Albon just 0.265s off. Albon had a high-speed spin at Turn 2 late in the session but his RB16 was fortunately left unscathed.
Fifth-place Daniil Kvyat was under half a second off Russell and just over a tenth faster than sixth-place team mate Pierre Gasly as AlphaTauri had an encouraging session. In a bizarre moment, Gasly found himself clinging onto his right-hand wing mirror at one point, as it threatened to fall off the car on his way back to the pits.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX SAKHIR GRAND PRIX 2020
Practice 1 results
|2 MaxVERSTAPPENRed Bull Racing||+0.176s|
|3 AlexanderALBONRed Bull Racing||+0.265s|
The Renaults and Ferraris lined up in sequence with Esteban Ocon seventh and Daniel Ricciardo ninth; Sebastian Vettel eighth and Charles Leclerc 10th – both teams hoping for more after finishing behind the McLarens in last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Racing Point therefore missed out on the top 10, with Lance Stroll 11th and Sergio Perez, who retired from podium contention last time out, 12th.
McLaren were also absent from the top-10 in FP1, Carlos Sainz 13th having spent considerable time in the garage for repairs thanks to this circuit layout’s bumps and heavy kerbs. Lando Norris was 16th overall.
Between the McLarens were the Alfa Romeos of 14th-place Kimi Raikkonen and 15th-place Antonio Giovinazzi.
As Romain Grosjean recovers from his horror crash in the last race, Pietro Fittipaldi was named as his replacement and finished P19 for Haas in this session. He was just under a second off team mate Kevin Magnussen, who finished 17th as he prepares to jump to sports cars Stateside in 2021.
Behind Fittipaldi was Williams’ reserve driver, Jack Aitken, who stands in for Russell this weekend. Aitken rounded out the standings, 2.157s off Russell in the Mercedes, and just over four-tenths behind team mate Nicholas Latifi who took 18th.
Williams’ Latifi and Aitken were the only drivers not to set their fastest times on soft tyres, with Latifi using mediums for his personal best and Aitken using hard compounds.
Free Practice 2 is likely to be another action-packed session as the laps come thick and fast on this very short circuit, but will anybody be able to topple Mercedes’ temporary driver Russell off the top of the standings? Find out soon as FP2 begins at 2030 local time.