- Max Verstappen continued to lead the way in the final practice session ahead of the season’s first Grand Prix
- The ‘big three’ teams locked out the top six positions, with less than 0.6s separating them all, Mercedes’ improvement was notable
- Red Bull’s Verstappen took first place in Friday practice, followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr, and Mercedes’ George Russell in fourth
Throughout pre-season, Red Bull and Ferrari appeared to be a step ahead of Mercedes, but the Silver Arrows were able to close the gap in the final practice session before the season begins.
World champion Max Verstappen finished ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in 1:32.544. Still, Mercedes’ improvement was notable as the ‘big three’ teams locked out the top six positions, with less than 0.6s separating them all.
Sergio Perez of Red Bull was third, with Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton fourth and sixth, respectively, separated by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.
In Bahrain, F1 races are held in the dark, and qualifying sessions are held at the sunsets. However, the first and third practices are held in broad, hot daylight, resulting in a significant environmental difference between the sessions.
Due to daytime conditions, the timings from Practice 3 may not fully represent what can be expected during the night-time qualifying.
However, the teams appeared to have come the closest to running realistic simulations in their all-new cars for the 2022 season.
Mercedes has trailed Red Bull and Ferrari throughout the preseason, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton insisting on Friday evening that his team has “big problems” with no “short-term” solution, but their performance was undeniably better.
The ‘porpoising’ issues that plagued them throughout the preseason, causing the car to bounce violently in high-speed parts of the track, appeared to be partially resolved, with Hamilton’s suffering reduced despite the car being low to the ground.
“This is far and away the best we’ve seen the Mercedes,” a former British racer said after Hamilton’s best effort. “That was a big step forward.”
However, how much of Red Bull and Ferrari’s potential has been unleashed is unclear.
Verstappen and Leclerc are still comfortably outpacing Mercedes, who appears to have a less settled setup than their rivals.
Despite outrunning his teammate Sainz by more than 0.4 seconds, Leclerc had a near-miss when he spun his Ferrari at Turn 11, narrowly avoiding a costly collision with the wall.
Lando Norris finished 11th and Daniel Ricciardo 15th, raising further concerns for McLaren.
They appear to have failed to overcome brake issues that surfaced during pre-season testing at the same track last week.
The Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeos were surprisingly ahead of Norris early in the season. With both teams showing the potential to exceed expectations.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished 10th, with Nico Hulkenberg (12th) filling in for Sebastian Vettel, suffering from Covid-19.
Pierre Galsy topped the Timesheets on Friday
After topping the timesheets in P1 on Friday with Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri had a contrasting start to Saturday. Yuki Tsunoda could not make it out on track due to a hydraulics issue and Gasly only managing 13th.
The final four positions (excluding Tsunoda) were shared by Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon and the two Williams drivers, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.
Friday practice also saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finish first ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.
George Russell was the closest Mercedes in fourth, nearly six tenths off the reigning world champion, while Lewis Hamilton was ninth – over six tenths behind his new team-mate.
The ‘porpoising’ phenomenon, in which cars bounce up and down while going fast down straights, has been a big part of their problem.
The opening race on Sunday, according to Mercedes director Shovlin, will be a ‘damage limitation race for Hamilton and Russell.
Sebastian Vettel did not race. He was ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19, with Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg filling the super-sub role.
After recovering from a positive COVID-19 test, which forced him to miss the Bahrain pre-season test last week. Daniel Ricciardo is back in action for McLaren.
Bahrain GP Practice Three Timesheet
|1) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:32.544|
|2) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.096|
|3) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.247|
|4) George Russell||Mercedes||+0.391|
|5) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.509|
|6) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.577|
|7) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+0.893|
|8) Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+1.189|
|9) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||+1.336|
|10) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1.376|
|11) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.411|
|12) Nico Hulkenburg||Aston Martin||+1.427|
|13) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+1.632|
|14) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+1.751|
|15) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1.834|
|16) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+2.084|
|17) Alex Albon||Williams||+2.324|
|18) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+2.413|
|19) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+3.123|
|20) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||No time|