F1 F1 Bull Bahrain Red GP: as The … One Mercedes verdict Day serve
Fri, 26 Mar 2021 13:00:00 +0000
It was 'only' testing a fortnight ago, and it's 'only' free practice now, but the ever-firmer indication from the early throes of F1 2021 in Bahrain is that the hitherto
Bahrain Grand Prix News
Last Updated: 26/03/21 9:04pm
It was ‘only’ testing a fortnight ago, and it’s ‘only’ free practice now, but the ever-firmer indication from the early throes of F1 2021 in Bahrain is that the hitherto all-conquering Mercedes team do have a battle for supremacy on their hands against Red Bull at the start of this new season.
Or, as Toto Wolff put it after seeing the sport’s big two show closely matched long-run pace in Practice Two, a “real dogfight”.
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As expected, the world champions have made improvements to their W12’s handling since it ran unexpectedly skittishly in testing, with Wolff reporting after the morning’s running that the car was no longer “as poisonous at the rear”.
Lewis Hamilton, who spun off twice in the three days two weeks ago, certainly looked more characteristically planted around the Sakhir sweeps in the two hours of Friday running and said afterwards that the team had indeed made progress, even if they “still have a hill to climb”.
How much further can they can climb with car and engine for when it really starts to matter in qualifying? We’ll find out from 3pm on Saturday…
It’s unwise to make predictions for the season based on one Friday but the ingredients are certainly there for a much closer year.
As was predicted due to few car changes, the pack seems to have closed up from the front to the back and, most intriguingly, from the midfield to the front.
Four teams were within 0.3s of Verstappen’s fastest time in P2.
New Mercedes engines.
New star driver in Daniel Ricciardo.
And a very strong start to F1 2021 for McLaren as the team – rejuvenated in third last year – picked up where they left off in Bahrain on Friday.
And not only do they appear to be the leading midfield team, there’s an argument to suggest they’re a lot closer to the front two after Lando Norris finished just a tenth off Verstappen under the P2 floodlights.
McLaren, of course, are keen to play that down.
“We look quick today but I think it’s fairly obvious what’s going to happen tomorrow – it’s going to be the usual front four cars,” insisted Norris.
“Behind them, it looks very close.
The car does feel good.”
All eyes on those papaya cars on Saturday.
Cutting Friday’s practice sessions from 90 minutes down to an hour? “A big thumbs up,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.
The shortened schedule certainly led to a more exciting feel to practice as, with teams keen not to lose out on any running, there was busy track action throughout both sessions, and plenty of lead changes.
Ferrari’s steady lap times at pre-season testing and cautious optimism about their new package – with Charles Leclerc only declaring it was a “bit” better than the car that was sixth-fastest in F1 last year – meant the sport’s most successful team arrived for 2021’s season-opener somewhat under the radar.
Perhaps that has helped, as Ferrari steadily got about their business on Friday and impressively finished the day with the fourth-fastest time through new signing Carlos Sainz.
And that followed Leclerc placing fifth in first practice.
It’s very, very early stages in Ferrari’s rebuild – but encouraging signs nonetheless.
They appear to be a strong midfield runner this weekend, maybe ahead of expected close rivals Aston Martin and Alpine.
Have Mercedes made improvements to their car since testing?
"It's not as poisonous at the rear as it was in the test"
Hear from @MercedesAMGF1 boss Toto Wolff 🎙#SkyF1 | #F1 | #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 pic.twitter.com/qDBUqMoWEE
Back to Mercedes and a not-so-subtle hint from Wolff on his feelings about the reason for the change of regulations at the rear of the car for 2021 to cut downforce and lap times.
“I’m sure it has been specifically designed to somehow change the pecking order.
But we knew that,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“We knew that the low-rake concept is going to be a car that is going to be more penalised than the high rake.
But it’s still a big challenge for us and we embrace the competition.
It’s just about doing the best-possible job without complaining.”
There are plenty of drivers joining new teams, and seasoned team-mates, this year – and they have all long warned that a shortened pre-season testing would make the settling-in process that little bit longer in 2021.
And so may be the case.
Only three of the six driver debutants (discounting Haas’ all-rookie line-up) managed to out-pace a team-mate on Friday – Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), and Sainz – and none did so in both sessions.
Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and returning world champion Fernando Alonso will certainly hope to improve through the weekend, and indeed the season.
Credit, meanwhile, to Mick Schumacher, who led Nikita Mazepin in both P1 and P2 for Haas.
A record-breaking 329 race starts, 41 years old…
but Kimi Raikkonen suffered the first crash of the F1 2021 season after shunting his Alfa Romeo off at Turn Two, losing a front wing in the process.
Otherwise, it was a very steady day for Alfa, who appear to have closed towards the midfield.
A lovely touch from @WilliamsRacing ❤️#SkyF1 | #F1 | #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 pic.twitter.com/5XeXKUVbHs
Gone, but definitely not forgotten.
On the first race weekend since the passing of the legendary Murray Walker at the age of 97, the broadcasting legend continues to be remembered around the paddock, with Williams displaying what classes as arguably Murray’s most famous line on their car’s halo.
It reads ‘and I’ve got to stop because I’ve got a lump in my throat’, in reference to Walker’s immortal words as Damon Hill finally became world champion for Williams in 1996.
Watch out for a special tribute feature from Sky Sports F1 to the commentary icon ahead of the race on Sunday from 2.30pm.
The concept of three editions of a new Saturday ‘Sprint Qualifying’ format has gained support from teams but the plan is not quite yet signed off as discussions continue over cost implications amid the first year of the F1’s inaugural budget cap.
McLaren boss Zak Brown explained: “It definitely needs to be addressed, that sprint racing/sprint qualifying will cost more money and can cost significant more money if there’s accident damage.
I think there are some different proposals on the table.
We just need to make sure that we address that specific issue and that it doesn’t create…
we don’t put a rule in place that creates an opportunity that starts expanding the budget cap that we’ve all agreed to.”
But, with talks continuing among team bosses, F1 and the FIA, Brown added: “I’m confident that we’ll figure that out.”
10.15am: F2 Sprint Race One
11.45am: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts 12pm)
2pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: BAHRAIN GP QUALIFYING
4.30pm: F2 Sprint Race Two
9pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
11.40am: F2 Feature Race
2.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday
4pm: THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
6pm: Chequered Flag
7pm: Ted’s Notebook
8pm: Bahrain GP Highlights
11pm: Bahrain GP Race Replay
Fri, 26 Mar 2021 13:00:00 +0000
Mercedes says its low-rake concept has been hurt more by Formula 1's new aero rules than Red Bull's alternative design, but says it cannot change tack now
The German manufacturer conducted a deep analysis of the troubles it suffered in pre-season testing, when main rival Red Bull enjoyed a confidence boosting three days of running.
PLUS: Is this Red Bull’s best chance to beat Mercedes?
It thinks a combination of the impact of the new harder Pirelli tyres, allied to the implications of a change of aero rules to cut downforce, have especially hindered its performance.
And it is in no doubt that the new floor rules, which have forced teams to cut away a segment of floor ahead of the rear tyre, affect the low-rake cars much more than they do higher-rake versions like Red Bull.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team is now battling to find ways to recover its deficit, especially because it cannot simply switch to a high-rake car.
“I don’t think that the rake is the only singular effect that we may be suffering from, [because] there are new tyres that we are racing in 2021 and we haven’t even started,” explained Wolff ahead of the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
“But definitely our analyses have shown that the high-rake concept has lost less downforce than the lower rake, and in the last year of these regulations we wouldn’t be able to replicate the concept that Red Bull and some of the other teams have been racing.
“It’s physically not possible.
We couldn’t run our suspensions and settings in the way that Red Bull does, and so we need to do the best out of it and tune the car with what we have available.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Mercedes had a more encouraging opening practice session in Bahrain on Friday, with its W12 not showing the rear instability that drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas suffered in testing.
However, the car did appear to show evidence of more understeer, which suggests that the team has not yet found the perfect set-up.
Wolff said that Mercedes now had a “path forward” that would help make the car more predictable for its drivers, but he suggested that further work was needed to relearn how best to optimise it.
Reflecting on the FP1 characteristics, Wolff said: “It wasn’t minor balance changes, it was rethinking the sweet spot of the car, also in combination with the tyres.
“The snappiness on the rear is much better.
Now, it’s about tuning it for the meaningful [evening] sessions tomorrow and on Sunday, and see whether the car’s still behaving nicer than in testing or not.”
Sainz brings much-needed fresh air to Ferrari F1 team – Binotto
Red Bull been through “pain” of F1 cost cap redundancies
Formula 1’s pre-season test at Bahrain hinted at a much closer competition for 2021 – but as ever, reading too deeply into testing is often folly.
However, the opening pair of practice sessions for the Bahrain GP also suggested that this season could be impossible to call….
The appointment of Francois-Xavier Demaison as the Williams F1 team’s new technical director is the latest manifestation of new CEO Jost Capito’s mission to preserve the team’s ‘family’ feel.
It will take time before it can take effect, but he is confident it is the correct approach
Fernando Alonso has put his ‘triple crown’ quest on hold as he returns to Formula 1 with Alpine.
Despite needing further surgery on the jaw fracture he sustained pre-season, he reckons he’s driving better than ever
If the winner of pre-season testing can turn its early form into a season-long challenge, then the hegemony of F1’s top team could genuinely be under threat.
Both teams are talking up the other as the 2021 season approaches its start, which could mean everything – and nothing
Three newcomers join the Formula 1 grid in 2021.
The shortest pre-season in F1 history will have done little to settle the nerves for Yuki Tsunoda, Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, and the Haas team’s admission of focusing everything on 2022 means the latter pair have an uphill climb this term
The countdown to 2021 F1 season is nearing its end and answers about the competitive order will soon arrive.
But just as crucial to the narrative of the season will be the intra-team battles for supremacy, as new players bed into unfamiliar environments and established pairings aim to settle scores
The return of the McLaren-Mercedes partnership for the first time since 2014 brings two of Formula 1’s biggest names back together.
Could it be the final step in McLaren’s rebuilding job?
This year’s carryover designs initially pointed to a continuation of Formula 1’s 2020 pecking order, but now it appears that the required aero tweaks may shake things up for the entire grid
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