Max Verstappen topped the times on the final day of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit with a 28.950 after taking over from Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez for the second session. The Dutchman’s fastest time came during the qualifying simulations at the end of the day, where he went nine hundredths faster than the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
The final hour of the session, which will be the qualifying and race in two weeks, proved to be the fastest time of the day. As the sun started to set, the drivers went for there best times so far, Verstappen setting the first times in the 1:20’s with a 29.9 going ahead of Perez.
Tsunoda then did a 29.7 going fastest, before Kimi Raikkonen went faster and then Verstappen on the mediums. The Japanese driver then reclaimed second with a 29.0 leaving him behind the Dutchman, which could prove that Honda have a competitive engine and maybe able to challenge Mercedes.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third fastest half a second behind Verstappen, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth fastest. The Italian team have certainly made a step forwards this year but the question remains how close will they be to Mercedes when we get into qualifying and the race in just under two weeks time.
Sainz and Raikkonen having a rare disagreement on track in the moments before the chequered flag. Ferrari also having a few reliability issues throughout the early session.
Sir Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest a second behind Verstappen although the Mercedes team tend to under-deliver in testing and go onto dominate the opening race of the season. However, the W12 has proved trickier for the seven times champion, and traditionally they focus on their long-run pace, creating hopes of a closer battle between Mercedes and Red Bull.
George Russell had a strong day for Williams going sixth fastest, Daniel Ricciardo going just over four hundredths slower in the McLaren. The Englishman on the first day in the car managed to complete a hundred and fifty laps, just over two race and a half races, his fastest time a 30.117.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh fastest in the McLaren four tenths ahead of Sergio Perez. The Mexican topped the times in the midday session setting a 30.1, finishing the day a second behind his teammate Verstappen. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was ninth and Charles Leclerc tenth.
That pushed the morning runners Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon out of the top ten. Norris had been four-tenths of Perez in second place after going over a tenth and a half ahead of the two Frenchmen, who were separated by half a second at the lunch break.
Nikita Mazepin also got the better running in the afternoon going fourteenth fastest half a second ahead of Haas teammate Mick Schumacher. The team has already admitted they won’t be developing this car, to focus on 2022 when the regulation change meaning it could lead to a difficult year.
Aston Martin had a difficult test and Sunday proved no different, months after winning the Sakhir Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel managed to complete a race before a turbo issue cut short his session. He was seventeenth fastest, going a second faster than teammate Lance Stroll.
Like Mercedes, the team beside the technical issues appeared to focus on mileage rather than outright pace.
Red Bull you have to say are the top team, but after seeing how Mercedes have performed over the last few years they tend to under-deliver in testing and then in the opening race come out the box strong and win the opening race. The question is can they sort out the handling and performance issues over the next twelve days before practice one.
Red Bull I think will be happy with the last three days if they can come out the box as they finished the test, we could have a championship challenge on our hands. As we always say we don’t know the fuel loads, setups and run plans making compassions difficult. Those answers will come in qualifying.
Before this test we expected that the midfield would be close and McLaren were three tenths ahead of Perez, and the Alpine a few tenths back. We obviously don’t know if the teams were showing a full hand with there on-track performance. Williams appears to be making progress into the midfield, Russell was under a tenth behind Hamilton, but we wont know until qualifying and the race
We will unpack this over the next week in Behind The Headlines ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix