Verstappen fastest from Bottas in F1 Bahrain GP opening practice

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen set the fastest time in first practice for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, as Formula 1’s new season commenced.

Verstappen fastest from Bottas in F1 Bahrain GP opening practice

Verstappen’s best lap of 1m31.294s is 2.334 seconds slower than the 1m28.960s he set to top pre-season testing at the Sakhir track earlier this month, but that was set in much cooler conditions than the cars ran in the mid-afternoon sun in Bahrain on Friday.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso led the pack out of the pits at the start of the one-hour session, with both Friday practice sessions reduced by 30 minutes in 2021.

Alonso set the first timed lap of FP1 with a 1m37.354s on the hard tyres, but was quickly shuffled back by his team-mate Esteban Ocon and then McLaren duo Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, who took the P1 benchmark down to a 1m33.361s – also on the white-walled rubber.

In a possible early sign of F1 teams adapting their Friday practice run plans with less time available this year, both Mercedes and Red Bull sent their drivers out for soft-tyre runs before 10 minutes had passed.

Sergio Perez took first place with a 1m33.180s on the softs after seven minutes had passed, before Lewis Hamilton used the red-walled rubber to go top with a 1m32.884s on a lap that looked significantly more stable than the car behaviour the Mercedes W12 was displaying in testing.

Bottas went fastest on his first soft-tyre run with a 1m32.707s before he was in turn usurped by Verstappen’s first flying lap – a 1m32.214s.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, in the pitlane

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, in the pitlane

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The flurry of fast times in the opening 20 minutes ended at this point as the teams returned to their garages to make set-up changes or conduct higher fuel running.

Norris kicked off the run of improvements at the end of the session with a 1m31.897s – his first soft tyre run, while Ricciardo did likewise a few minutes later but encountered significant traffic and wound up a few tenths adrift of his team-mate as a result.

After Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly had nipped in between the McLarens with a 1m31.993s and 1m32.195s for Ferrari and AlphaTauri respectively, the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers went for their final soft-tyre runs of FP1.

Hamilton went fastest of anyone in the first sector with just under 10 minutes to go but lost time as the lap wore on, wrestling his car at the final corner, and ended up just under 0.1s slower than Norris.

But Bottas was able to hold his speed over the lap and retake the top spot with a 1m31.692s, before Verstappen again demoted the Mercedes driver.

Verstappen’s final and best lap included the fastest times in the first and second sectors before a slight wobble out of the final corner cost him a clean sweep on his 1m31.294s.

Norris ended up third ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc and Perez – who kept hold of the fastest time in the third sector until the end of FP1.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Gasly finished seventh in front of Carlos Sainz Jr in the second Ferrari and Ricciardo, while Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10 for Alfa Romeo.

Sebastian Vettel damaged a set of softs with a heavy lock-up at the double-left complex of Turns 9-10 midway through the session, as he started his new life at Aston Martin with P12 in FP1, one spot ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll.

Ocon and Alonso ended up 15th and 16th, with George Russell and Nicholas Latifi following for Williams ahead of the Haas rookies led by Mick Schumacher.

F1 Bahrain GP - FP1 results

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 12 1'31.394  
2 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 17 1'31.692 0.298
3 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 20 1'31.897 0.503
4 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 15 1'31.921 0.527
5 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 14 1'31.993 0.599
6 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 15 1'32.071 0.677
7 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 23 1'32.195 0.801
8 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 15 1'32.366 0.972
9 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 20 1'32.434 1.040
10 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 16 1'32.786 1.392
shares
comments
McLaren F1 boss predicts Verstappen-Russell at Mercedes in 2022

Previous article

McLaren F1 boss predicts Verstappen-Russell at Mercedes in 2022

Next article

Why 'family' still comes first in Williams' new Capito era

Why 'family' still comes first in Williams' new Capito era
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Bahrain GP
Sub-event FP1
Author Alex Kalinauckas
Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish” Plus

Why Bottas feels the time has come to be “more selfish”

We’ve seen five distinct versions of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes as he’s tried to fulfil his own ambitions while being a consummate team player – two difficult, competing missions which have been challenging to reconcile. Speaking exclusively to STUART CODLING, Bottas explains his highs and lows… and why he still believes he can be world champion

Formula 1
May 15, 2021
Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row? Plus

Does Aston have a case in F1 2021’s big technical row?

Aston Martin claims Formula 1’s latest technical tweaks have cost it competitiveness – and that it’s the innocent victim of a regulatory stitch-up aimed at pegging back Mercedes. But is any of this actually true? It depends on who you ask, says STUART CODLING

Formula 1
May 14, 2021
How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean? Plus

How long can F1 2021's brewing title battle stay clean?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been evenly matched so far in the 2021 Formula 1 title race. Neither has been afraid to get aggressive against each other on track, teeing up an enthralling contest as the year unwinds. But is their rivalry destined to end in broken shards of carbon fibre?

Formula 1
May 13, 2021
What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight Plus

What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight

OPINION: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have recovered from their pre-season woes to take three wins from the opening four races of 2021. But each time Red Bull and Max Verstappen have pushed them hard. So, what clues did the latest round of that battle – the Spanish Grand Prix – tease about the next stage of the season?

Formula 1
May 12, 2021
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Plus

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Plus

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Plus

How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021