For the first time in 2021, Formula 1 went practicing. It was FP1 for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Gone are the days of 90-minute practice sessions. The teams now only have three 60-minute sessions before qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
This was an important session in finding out the potential pecking order for the course of the season. It is important for the drivers as well, there is less wind than at testing, so they needed to use this to get used to the cars in vastly different conditions.
When the light went green, a line of cars left the out lane immediately, led by the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Within five minutes, all cars had been out for at least an installation lap to dial the cars in and feel the track. Esteban Ocon set the first lap time, but it obviously wasn’t representative of outright pace.
Mercedes did a low fuel run early on, with Bottas putting a 1:32.709 lap on the board, but being quickly passed by Verstappen. Hamilton then lowered the benchmark to 1:32.214 as the session ticked into the second quarter.
The session then calmed down as teams went on with their schedules. At the halfway mark, the top five was Hamilton followed by Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, and Leclerc’s Ferrari. McLaren’s Lando Norris became the first driver in the 1:31s, posting a 1:31.897 with 25 minutes to go.
As the session entered its dying minutes, drivers started doing late push laps on new soft tires. Verstappen put a brilliant lap together to go fastest by 0.3s, with a 1:31.394, which nobody could top. So, the chequered flag came out. Verstappen on top, from Bottas, Norris, Hamilton and Leclerc.
Full results follow: