Following yesterday's setback for Mercedes, the second day of the pre-season testing saw the world champion team get back to the top with Valtteri Bottas dominating the qualifying simulation runs.
Improved balance for the W12
Following the troubled start to the pre-season testing, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance managed 600km of running at the Bahrain International Circuit on day two of pre-season testing, with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas splitting driving duties.
After completing only six laps yesterday, Bottas assumed driving responsibilities for the afternoon session, topping the classification charts with a lap of 1:30.289 while performing qualifying simulations on the C3, C4 and C5 tyre compounds.
„It was a lot better for me than yesterday, for sure,” Bottas added. „I finally managed to get some laps and some clean runs to really learn about the new car and try some things. It’s always good when you learn and that’s what testing is all about – the opportunity to run different things and see how the car reacts. As a driver you use that information in a race weekend so it’s hugely important. If the set-up changes work or don’t work, it’s all valuable information.
„For sure it’s windier here than we’ve had at a race but one of the bigger issues with the car is the rear end, it’s quite snappy and unforgiving. With the new tyres, it’s quite sensitive so we need to calm the car down a bit.
„[On topping the timing charts]… it’s so difficult to say what that means. I can’t be jumping around happy - it is only testing. As always, we are just focused on getting through our programme and maximising the learning. You never know what fuel loads people are running. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow, we will have a better idea of where we are,” Bottas concluded.
Hamilton took to the track in the morning session, putting together a solid run of aerodynamic data collection and setup checks. Despite a brief pause after a spin at turn 13, Lewis clocked up 58 laps.
„It was OK, better than yesterday - not so much sand. The track doesn’t have a huge amount of grip and long runs aren’t the easiest but at least the sun was out! The balance was slightly improved compared to yesterday but we’re still working through certain things.
„For today the wind did a 180° shift so the track was very different, and you could push in certain places where you couldn’t yesterday. It was very gusty as I found out at turn 13 and the rear doesn’t feel particularly great with this new regulation change but we’re still trying to find the sweet spot.
„I’ve done 60-odd laps today and Valtteri missed a lot of track time yesterday so it’s not a lot compared to other tests we’ve had but we’re trying to be as effective as we can. We have less mileage than some of the others like Red Bull but we’re just trying to stick to our programme and manage the laps to try to be efficient. We’re just focusing on understanding the car, there’s no point in getting worried,” said the Briton.
Car go neowwwwwwwwwwwwwww pic.twitter.com/LL5C2WXncH— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 13, 2021
Long runs for Ferrari
The second day of the only 2021 pre-season test session saw Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz working on slightly different programmes to one another at the wheel of the SF21. Between them, the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers completed 129 laps today, equivalent to 698,1 kilometres. It means that over the two days so far, they have done 244 laps (1,321 km).
The Spaniard did a series of quite long runs, using both the C2 and C3 compounds. Sainz did 56 laps, the quickest in a time of 1’33”072. While his team mate continued with the long runs in the first part of the afternoon, the Monegasque did a series of runs aimed partly at a qualifying simulation with various tyre compounds
Commenting on today’s programme, Ferrari’s Racing Director Laurent Mekies said: "Another very busy day of testing in Bahrain, with almost 700 kilometres covered during the eight hours of track time.
„The weather was much better than yesterday, although the wind was still a feature, especially in the first part of the day. We worked a lot on management of the Pirelli tyres over long runs and we got plenty of data which we will now analyse carefully. In the final hour, we also began to look at how the SF21 went in terms of outright performance and here too, we gathered a lot of useful information.
„These three days are vitally important and we are taking a methodical approach, because the work we do now will be the key to how we get on during the season. Therefore the most important thing is to complete the planned programme and that’s what we have done so far. As for the competition, we can start thinking about that in two weeks time, in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix."
Tomorrow will see Leclerc drive in the morning with Sainz taking over for the afternoon.
Troubled day for Vettel
That was another troubled day for the Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team. While the balance and the pace of the car was very promising in the afternoon, the morning session saw the team lose almost the entirety of the first four hours due to a gearbox problem.
Speaking of his extremely short day, Sebastian Vettel added: “It was not such a busy day for me. We experienced a gearbox issue quite early on and that kept the car in the garage.
“The guys did a great job to quickly fit a new gearbox and we got back out just before the end of the morning session. Doing so few laps today wasn't ideal because there is just one more day of testing before we come back here for the race and I am still learning about this new car. Fortunately, things went a bit better this afternoon for Lance giving us some important information. Hopefully, we can have a more straightforward day tomorrow.”
In the afternoon, Lance Stroll completed a total of 71 laps, posting his best time with a 1m30.460.
“Overall a very positive afternoon after a difficult morning for Sebastian where some technical issues limited our running. Track conditions were not so easy – it was still quite windy, but even in those conditions it felt great to be back driving and getting lots of laps under my belt. The afternoon programme went to plan: we completed the main jobs and ticked off the test items. There’s still lots to catch up on tomorrow, but I’m feeling pretty pleased with a solid afternoon,” the Canadian said.
High mileage for Alfa Romeo
Antonio Giovinazzi didn’t shy away from putting in the miles during the second day of testing in Bahrain. The Italian racked up a whopping 125 laps on a day that saw the team complete its testing programme in full, despite some red flags interrupting both the morning and afternoon sessions.
Commenting on today’s work, Alfa Romeo’s Technical Director Jan Monchaux added: “It was another good day of testing, with 125 laps to our name. We were able to run our first race simulation in the morning: it went well and we learnt a lot of things that will serve us well during the season. The focus in the afternoon was more on our one-lap performance and on set-up work.
“It was important to have another full day without reliability issues, so that we could run all the tests we wanted. Antonio did a great job, extracting most out of each lap, as he did yesterday. Now the baton passes to the engineers, crunching the data and preparing tomorrow’s session. Kimi will be back in the car and we’re very likely to run a similar programme to today’s to close off our testing week.”
Antonio Giovinazzi said: “I am really happy with the work we did: it was a long day, with a lot of laps, but I think we ticked all the boxes on our list. We did long runs and qualifying runs and we managed to achieve all we set out to do.
“It was my last day in the car before the first race and I feel confident about the season. We worked very hard during the winter and we are ready for the first round: it’s hard to say where we expect to stand, I think we have a good baseline but we won’t know for certain until the first qualifying of the year.”
Kimi Räikkönen will return to the cockpit tomorrow for the final day of testing ahead of the first race of the season – in this very venue.
This livery looks _____________ pic.twitter.com/psUwrWVCrc— Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN (@alfaromeoracing) March 13, 2021
Red Bull debut for Perez
Sergio Perez took over from Max Verstappen on the second day of pre-season testing with the Mexican enjoying a largely trouble-free day, clocking up 117 laps with the focus on long runs on the harder Pirelli tyre compound.
The Mexican was briefly sidelined by an issue with the left-hand engine cover of his car but after swift repairs he was soon back on track.
Commenting on his first test appearance with the Team, Sergio said: “It was great to do a full day of testing in the RB16B and even though conditions are very tricky out there we got through plenty of work and there is plenty of development to come. It’s great to be working with the Team and I’m getting more and more used to things - I can already feel the potential. I have the morning tomorrow in the car, so I’m looking forward to getting in some more laps.”
Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin added: “Sergio got through a full race simulation today, including pit stops, which was very useful for him as he embeds with the Team even more and gets up to speed with all our procedures.
“We had a couple of small issues – nothing huge and it didn’t affect our engineering programme, so in a way these are things you want to find out about in testing. Those niggles aside, it was another solid day. It is clear that we have not been chasing lap times and have only run one of the harder compounds, so there are no real conclusions to be drawn from the overall time sheet. All in all, two good days and hopefully we’ll close out the test with another productive day tomorrow,” he said.
Second position for Gasly
Aiming to rack up important mileage during the session, ahead of the opening round here in Bahrain on 28th March, Yuki Tsunoda managed to complete over 300km of running – on a mixture of tyre compounds - ahead of the lunchbreak. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly headed out in the afternoon, spending the first half of the session on longer runs before putting in a strong stint on the soft tyre to finish the day in second place.
Following another successful day, the Frenchman said: “It’s been another really positive day for me, with a lot of laps done this afternoon. We managed to complete all the high-fuel running that we wanted to at the start of the session and then some performance runs towards the end, with the softer compound. I feel really good in the car, especially compared to this time last year, so it’s really positive for me. There are obviously places we still need to improve upon, but I think we’re in a good place with one day left of running at this test.
“The Honda Power Unit is working really well so far and we haven’t had any reliability issues which is great – I’m excited to get it out on track for the race. With only three days of testing – split between two drivers - I knew it would be difficult but considering how many laps we’ve been able to complete so far I’m feeling quite comfortable with the car ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.”
After finishing in P11, Yuki Tsunoda said: “I think for me on the driving side things are definitely improving each time I go out. The weather again today has been an issue, particularly with the changes in wind direction, so it’s definitely been a big learning curve.
“I’m really starting to understand the car and how it reacts with different tyre compounds now – my performance isn’t perfect yet but I’m happy with how the test is going from my side. I’m also getting more confident in high speed corners, as I continue to understand the downforce levels of the car more with each run we do. It’s good learning for the team, and also for myself, so hopefully we can put it all together tomorrow.”
Tomorrow the team will conclude the final of three days of pre-season testing, with Pierre running in the morning and Yuki heading out in the afternoon for the final session.
The most diligent driver
While Williams worked with its test driver Roy Nissany yesterday, the team’s Canadian regular Nicholas Latifi got behind the wheel of the FW43B on Day 2 of the pre-season testing.
Speaking about Williams’ programme, Dave Robson, the team’s Head of Vehicle Performance said: We had a busy day, completing 132laps without any major issues. The track changed throughout the day making comparisons difficult, but we were still able to complete some useful work. It was good for Nicholas to get a trouble-free day and to experience the car in a range of conditions and on a range of tyres.
„It looks like the weather will be a bit different again tomorrow when George will be in the car to complete our pre-season testing. We still have a lot to do, but we are confident that we can have another productive today tomorrow and get ourselves into the best possible position for the first race.”
After racking up the highest mileage on Day 2, Nicholas Latifi said: „It was great to get some proper running back behind the wheel. It was nice to push the car in the dry and knock the dust off from the winter. It was a tricky day with the wind, but it was good to get some running in these conditions as there was lots to learn.
„As is normal in pre-season testing, there were a few half-spins as I was pushing to see what the limits were. I think we can be happy with the number of laps we completed today, and we now have a lot of data to analyse to be as prepared as possible for the first race of the season.