Verstappen tops the opening day of pre-season testing

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F1 Test, Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

After McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo topped the morning session of the opening day of the official pre-season testing, it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who snatched away the early glory at the end of Day 1.

It has been a perfect start for Red Bull and Max Verstappen with the Dutchman notching up a total of 139 laps on his way to the best lap time of the day. The 23-year-old completed 60 laps in the morning, followed by 79 laps in the afternoon 4-hour session. He registered his best time of 1m30.674 on the C3 Pirelli tyres.

The opening day of testing was less productive for Mercedes as they encountered technical problems on the first day.

Mercedes, the team which has dominated Formula One since the start of the 2014 season, split its day into two halves with Valtteri Bottas driving in the morning and Lewis Hamilton turning the wheel in the afternoon. The Finn only racked up six laps in total and said that the technical issues were related to the gearbox.

„The first lap, we released there was an issue with the gearbox. Only at the very end did we get some laps and then there was the red flag.

„Not ideal. In recent years [reliability] has been pretty bombproof, but hopefully, we can catch up a bit more and I look forward to the next two days,” he said.

Speaking about Mercedes’ woeful start to its preparation, Team Principal Toto Wolff said that the technical gremlin was totally unexpected.

“It wasn’t a good start, because we had a gearbox issue that came out of nowhere that we haven’t yet been ready to identify and understand."

“So I hope if we are able to have a smoother ride from here onwards, then I think we can recover. If we have more stumbling blocks, then obviously with three days there’s not a lot you can do.”

McLaren had a promising day on their first official mutual day with Mercedes after a six-year break. Lando Norris posted the second fastest time with a 1m30.889 and notched up a total of 46 laps. His new team-mate Daniel RIcciardo ended his first official day with the Woking-based team successfully by finishing up seventh.

The rebranded Alpine team was represented by Esteban Ocon, who registered the second-highest mileage with 129 laps. The Frenchman ended the day in the third position, posting a time of 1m31.146. His team mate Fernando Alonso is set to try out his new car tomorrow. The Spaniard is still recovering from his cycling accident that happened near Lugano in Switzerland last month.

Alonso said that he will need a further jaw operation, but he is sure that his 2021 F1 season will not be affected by his road accident.
"I've been training for I think three weeks or two weeks, absolutely normal and I've been in the simulator as well, Monday and Tuesday, so you know the preparations were not affected too much.

"I missed only a couple of marketing days and filming days which I was happy with in a way. And then, I recorded everything yesterday afternoon, so I had a very intense day on marketing activities. But yeah I feel fine, obviously.

"One thing is the professional side and driving side, which is 100%. On the personal side, obviously, I will have to remove two titanium plates that I have on the upper jaw, that will be removed at the end of the season,” he said.

Aston Martin, which is set to make its return to the sport after 61 years away from the sport, has had a low-key start to its pre-season testing. Sebastian Vettel completed a total of 51 laps and finished in 13th with three seconds of the pace. His teammate Lance Stroll was also at the back end of the order until a late charge on soft tyres which saw him fly up to fourth place.

Vettel said that the opening day has been an intensive affair for him with lots of things to explore with his new car. The German has only driven Red Bull and Ferrari engines so far during his career, so he also needed to get used to the characteristics of the Mercedes power unit.

“Obviously the car is different, it’s run differently, it’s a different power unit, lots of different switches, buttons, procedures. But also in terms of handling, the car is different, so a different approach, and then there’s basic stuff, steering, brakes, the car behaviour that I’ve got to get used to.

“So there’s still quite a bit of margin for myself, and improvement that I have to do on driving, just getting familiar with the car. But it’s been, in all honesty, quite a tricky morning, because it’s very windy, and the grip was quite low. I think everyone was facing the same track conditions,” said the quadruple world champion.