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Verstappen quickest for Red Bull as new F1 season gets underway

Verstappen quickest for Red Bull as new F1 season gets underway

F1 News

Verstappen quickest for Red Bull as new F1 season gets underway

Verstappen quickest for Red Bull as new F1 season gets underway

Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull in the opening practice session of the new Formula 1 season ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen, a narrow favourite for victory this weekend ahead of seven-time reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, was a comfortable three-tenths-of-a-second clear ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas with a lap of one minute 31.394secs.

McLaren's Lando Norris and Hamilton were both half-a-second back, followed by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and second Red Bull of Verstappen's new team-mate Sergio Perez.

Despite the conditions being wholly unrepresentative given qualifying and the race is run in the cooler evening climes, the drivers wasted no time in heading out on to the track that had a temperature of 46.5 degrees centigrade and with the air at 36.

With both practice sessions on Friday for this season now cut from 90 minutes to one hour, it means all running is crucial for the teams for gathering data.

What was remarkable was seeing Hamilton take just seven minutes to take to the circuit on a set of the soft compound tyres that ordinarily, in past seasons, are reserved for the end of the session.

The W12 that posed problems in pre-season testing due to its rear-end instability and lack of pace, certainly compared to its main rival, the RB16B from Red Bull, at least appeared more planted across the 60 minutes on this occasion, although suggested it was now front-limited.

With all the teams ultimately running soft-tyre programmes, it was Red Bull and Verstappen who effectively drew first blood as the Dutchman was quickest in the first two sectors of the Bahrain International Circuit, although lost out in the final third.

The Dutchman's lap was still good enough to ease past Bottas, with Hamilton down in fourth, 0.527secs adrift, and Perez 0.677s behind Verstappen.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, the second Ferrari and McLaren of Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo respectively, along with Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi completed the top 10, with the latter 1.392s off the pace.

For Aston Martin, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were 12th and 13th ahead of the second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda in his practice debut, with the Japanese 1.935s down.

Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and the returning Fernando Alonso were a lowly 15th and 16th, albeit with the team focusing on new aero development items.

Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi were 17th and 18th, ahead of Haas rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, the latter 3.581s adrift.

Bahrain Grand Prix first practice times

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31.394

2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.692

3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:31.897

4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.921

5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:31.993

6 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:32.071

7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:32.195

8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:32.366

9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:32.434

10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:32.786

11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:33.134

12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:33.157

13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:33.233

14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:33.329

15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:33.528

16 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:33.872

17 George Russell Williams 1:34.127

18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:34.340

19 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:34.501

20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:34.975

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