After weeks of speculation and huge anticipation, F1’s new generation cars finally hit the track for the first official grand prix session ahead of this weekend’s season-opening race in Bahrain.
Gasly posted a 1m34.193s on Pirelli’s softest tyre compound to hit the top of the timesheets in Friday’s opening 60-minute practice session, with the AlphaTauri driver ending up 0.364s clear of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz was third-quickest, 0.418s down on Gasly, but both Ferrari drivers set their best laps on the medium compound.
Fourth-place went the way of George Russell, who finished nearly half a second off the pace in Mercedes, ahead of reigning world champion Max Verstappen, who ran exclusively on the medium tyre as he completed the top five for Red Bull.
Lance Stroll put his Aston Martin sixth fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the same tyre compound as the seven-time world champion ended up 0.750s off the pace.
Mercedes was trialing a new floor during FP1 to try and cure its porpoising issues, but Hamilton’s W13 car was still seen bouncing aggressively on the straights. Hamilton and Russell are running different floor specifications.
Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda and Sergio Perez completed the rest of the top 10 for Alpine, AlphaTauri and Red Bull respectively.
Conditions in opening practice were not hugely representative given the session was run in the afternoon, with FP2 on Friday evening set to provide a more realistic picture of the conditions the drivers will face in qualifying and the race.
The sessions was interrupted after just seven minutes of running when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine shed a large chunk of bodywork from the team’s upgraded sidepods, causing the red flag to be flown.
Alpine said it was in the process of investigating what caused the bodywork to come loose, but Ocon was able to rejoin the action and finished 12th fastest, behind F1’s first-ever Chinese driver, Guanyu Zhou.
Zhou’s Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Bottas managed just two laps before being forced to return to the garage after reporting misfiring in his car. The Finn propped up the FP1 order after failing to set a lap time.
Second free practice gets underway at 6pm local time (3pm GMT).Full results from opening practice for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix.