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Bahrain Grand Prix: Who will take first pole of F1's new era?

Bahrain Grand Prix: Who will take first pole of F1's new era?

F1 News

Bahrain Grand Prix: Who will take first pole of F1's new era?

Bahrain Grand Prix: Who will take first pole of F1's new era?
GPFans Staff

F1 pre-season testing has drawn to a close with teams now fully focused on the first grand prix of the year next weekend.

The action begins in anger for the Bahrain Grand Prix with teams carrying any knowledge from six days of running into the season hoping they have found the optimum solution to the sport's new rules.

But what does the pecking order look like? GPFans staff have come up with a prediction with the following list based on pace and performance alone.

Think of it as what we think the qualifying order would be if the session was run right now!

We have used a points system of 10 points for first through to one point for 10th, creating a maximum score of 30 based on where each writer believes a given team lies.

Red Bull [30 points]

Everyone is in collective agreement at GPFans with Max Verstappen's lap of one minute, 31.270secs laying down the gauntlet to rival teams.

The nearest driver to that mark was Mick Schumacher for Haas who was a second adrift and whilst lap time is often unrepresentative, the fact Red Bull trundled through the test grinding out mileage before producing a late flurry is a hint of the confidence within the team.

Even when Verstappen was third fastest on day two in Bahrain, the world champion said the car was quick without even trying. An ominous message.

Ferrari [27 points]

Again, a unanimous verdict as to which team will be second fastest.

Ferrari was strong in both Barcelona and Bahrain with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc constantly in the top three of the timings.

The Scuderia topped more sessions than any other team and whilst there was no groundbreaking lap time at the end of testing, most teams on the grid have singled Ferrari out as being a contender for race wins in the first few races of the year.

Mercedes [24 points]

More agreement for third place with Mercedes falling back behind the Italian outfit compared to past seasons.

Lap times looked competitive in Barcelona before some long-run focus in Bahrain.

The team endured a torrid pre-season last year and ended up winning race one after qualifying on the front row. With two of the best qualifiers on the grid in its ranks, the Silver Arrows prove here that it has enough performance to be top three.

McLaren [21 points]

McLaren undoubtedly has pace in the MCL36 but not once in Bahrain was Lando Norris able to post a lap time in the one minute, 32secs range.

This means that despite the promise shown in Barcelona that the team was on a par with Ferrari, we had to predict fourth, albeit only just behind Mercedes.

Alpine [17 points]

The midfield is so tight to call but Alpine did just enough to take fifth in our pecking order.

The team recovered from a smokey end to the Barcelona test with a lot of laps in Bahrain, but importantly good pace during those laps.

On glory laps, Esteban Ocon performed well and even topped a session whilst Fernando Alonso set the fourth-fastest time of the test to outline the chances Alpine could have of mounting a challenge for the top four.

AlphaTauri [14 points]

AlphaTauri is currently an intriguing package. On one hand, the pace was there from the get-go as Pierre Gasly finished the first session in Bahrain fastest.

Yet the team never showed its hand through the rest of the test, failing to duck under the one minute, 33secs barrier.

One writer had AlphaTauri as high as fifth in the pecking order whilst another as low as eighth, leaving the Faenza-based team perhaps the most mysterious on the grid.

Alfa Romeo [13 points]

As we mentioned earlier, our list here is based on pure performance alone and for this reason, Alfa Romeo does not sit at the bottom of the pile.

When the car did get clean running, the pace looked promising for Valtteri Bottas and rookie Guanyu Zhou.

Finnish driver Bottas finished the test sixth-fastest overall, although fuel loads and tyre strategy would suggest the team would likely qualify seventh fastest.

It would not be too surprising, however, if Alfa Romeo was to jump ahead of AlphaTauri when full performance is revealed.

Haas [Eight points]

Last season's backmarkers placed as high as seventh on one of our lists but last on another, with the realism of their fast laps during their extra allocated hours on Friday and Saturday yet to be seen.

Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen were fast during the night running, although these were the best conditions to lap in.

Having completely written off 2021 to focus on the development of the VF-22, a competitive qualifying and eighth in the pecking order would surely please Guenther Steiner during the first race weekend.

Aston Martin [Seven points]

It has been a winter of change at Aston Martin with the influx of staff finally getting underway and a new team principal in Mike Krack to replace Alpine-bound Otmar Szafnauer.

Whether this has affected on-track running remains to be seen but so far the Silverstone-based team has been largely underwhelming. The fastest time for either driver was a one minute, 33.821, set by Sebastian Vettel.

Of course, there is an element to suggest the team may be keeping cards close to its chest, but there is nothing to suggest it could jump ahead of those above in the list so far.

Williams [Four points]

Caveated by the fact a lot of running was lost due to a fire on day two, Williams' pace was not promising in Bahrain.

Neither driver was able to break into the one minute, 34s with only Pietro Fittipaldi, who drove for Haas on Thursday afternoon, slower.

That leaves a lot of time for the team to find in a week before qualifying. Hopefully, there is some time left up its sleeve to surprise us when the cars hit the track next week.

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