Pierre Gasly put in a “nice” lap, his words, to go quickest in the first practice session of the new Formula 1 season in Bahrain.
Three months after the 2021 season concluded in controversial circumstances, Formula 1 turned in a lap in anger – but it was a rather different looking Formula 1 that took to the track at the Sakhir circuit for the first practice of the new season.
Formula 1 has made sweeping changed to the technical regulations, all-new cars designed around ground effect aerodynamics and with simpler wings. It intent being to create cars that can follow each other far more closely.
FP1 was the first hint at what Formula 1 can expect this season and so far it is looking good for Gasly and AlphaTauri P1, but not so great for Alfa Romeo with Valtteri Bottas unable to set a lap time.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 18, 2022
Charles Leclerc with a tail full of aero rakes, Ferrari trialling a new diffuser, was the first man on track followed by Bottas. The Finn was immediately back into the pits, reporting “quite a bit of misfiring” with the Ferrari engine in his Alfa Romeo.
Two drivers who were in desperate need of a clean run were Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg. Ricciardo missed all three days of the Bahrain test after testing positive for Covid-19 while for Hulkenberg Friday was his first run in the new 2022 cars, the Aston Martin reserve driver stepping in for Sebastian Vettel after he recorded a positive test.
Esteban Ocon joined the list of drivers in trouble, the red flags out when a piece of his right sidepod fell off as he flew down the straight. Alpine had been trialling a new design, the Frenchman swapped onto the old spec that the team ran during testing.
Lando Norris and Ricciardo were holding down the 1-2 at the time, the Briton’s best a 1:36.584 with 13 of the 20 drivers having set times.
— WTF1 (@wtf1official) March 18, 2022
The session resumed with 40 minutes on the clock with reigning World Champion Max Verstappen clocking a 1:34.783 on his first real attempt at a hot lap. Fernando Alonso up to second ahead of Sergio Perez. And then there was more bodywork on the track, this time George Russell’s Mercedes the culprit.
Russell and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was P6 halfway through the session, were running different floor configurations as Mercedes chased a cure for their porpoising issues. There was still no sign of Hamilton’s former team-mate Bottas, the Finn stuck in the pits.
Perez made it a Red Bull 1-2, fastest in the final sector and 0.3s down on Verstappen’s best, with Ocon up to fourth behind Alonso as the Alpine’s showed good pace. And then Mercedes did what Mercedes does, Russell hitting the front with a 1:34.6229, a tenth fastest than Verstappen. He, however, was on the soft tyres to the Red Bull driver’s mediums.
Leclerc was the first spinner of the session, and the season, getting it wrong at Turn 11. The Ferrari driver recovered from that to go P2, Pierre Gasly up to the top spot with a 1:34.193. “What a lap, that was nice,” said the AlphaTauri driver.
— Tutkumuz F1 (@F1tutkumuz) March 18, 2022
Bottas was finally out on track with eight minutes left on the clock, a set of soft tyres bolted on his Alfa Romeo… and then he was back in the pits after one lap with yet more engine troubles. His team-mate Guanyu Zhou fared better, P11 with 20 laps on the board.
The session concluded with Gasly quickest of all, the Frenchman taking the first P1 of the season ahead of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, Ferrari seemingly backing up their pre-season pace. Russell was P4 ahead of Verstappen and Lance Stroll with Hamilton P7. Hulkenberg was 14th with 22 laps.
1 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:34.193 23 laps (soft)
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.364s 22 laps
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.418s 22 laps
4 George Russell Mercedes 0.436s 21 laps (soft)
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.549s 22 laps
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 0.621s 21 laps (soft)
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.750s 16 laps (soft)
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.807s 13 laps (soft)
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0.835s 20 laps (soft)
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.857s 23 laps
11 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 0.860s 20 laps (soft)
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.958s 15 laps (soft)
13 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.451s 15 laps (soft)
14 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 1.622s 22 laps (soft)
15 Alex Albon Williams 1.730s 16 laps (soft)
16 Lando Norris McLaren 2.111s 22 laps
17 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 2.209s 20 laps
18 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.343s 22 laps
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.611s 21 laps
20 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 2 laps (soft)