Teams' reactions after Bahrain F1 pre-season testing

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F1 Test, Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

On Sunday evening, the curtain came down on the sole three-day pre-season testing that took place at Bahrain just two weeks before the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway at the very same venue.

Good working relationship at Ferrari

Over the course of the three day pre-season test at Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s SF21 completed a total of 403 laps, equivalent to 2,182 kilometres. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz shared the driving every day.

On the last day, Leclerc kicked off the testing programme by conducting short runs on C3 tyres before tackling a race simulation. His new team mate Sainz completed a race simulation at the beginning of the afternoon session before trying out his new car in qualifying trim.

Scuderia’s Team Principal Mattia Binotto indicated that his outfit has been able to improve its competitiveness compared to last year’s woeful performance, but he was not sure where the SF21 stands in the packing order due to the extremely short pre-season testing.

"These were three very busy days of testing,” started Binotto his assessment. “One of our priorities was to make the most of the short time available to gain an understanding of the behaviour of the SF21 and we succeeded in doing that. I feel we have improved in many areas compared to last season. It’s hard to say where we are compared to our opponents, because this test was even harder than usual to interpret.

„I was particularly pleased with the way Charles and Carlos worked with the team and the good relationship between the two of them, which has helped Sainz fit in with his new team very quickly. For our part, we have to carefully analyse all the data to be as well prepared as possible for the start of the championship. There’s a lot to do, but we all really want to do well,” said the Swiss-Italian.

Setup work for Mercedes

Although Mercedes had an unusually troublesome start to the final preparation for the 2021 F1 season, the Brackley-based outfit are confident that they can turn things around when the season begins in two weeks’ time.

Valtteri Bottas took to the track this morning under clear blue skies, putting together 86 laps of long run set-up work and general balance learning. After losing valuable time due to gearbox issues on Day 1, he was happy to be able to make up for the lost time.

“Day one was compromised for me so I’m pleased the past two days have been efficient and clean,” added the Finn. “Today, like yesterday, we had plenty of laps and ran good quality tests. I’m still not entirely comfortable but we’ve been moving forward and getting better. There’s still more work to do; we’ve collected lots of data over these past few days which we will analyse to help us make the car faster ahead of the first race.

“Time is even more limited now with the recent changes but our recovery from the first day has been very good. I absolutely believe that the car and team has the potential to fight for the title. I don’t think the package is quite there yet in terms of performance but I have no doubt it will be. I feel like I’ve had enough time in the car, performing short runs and long runs, and I really feel comfortable and confident. From my side I’m ready and as a team, we will be ready.”

Lewis Hamilton jumped in the cockpit for the afternoon session completing a mix of long-run and qualifying work over 54 laps.

“I’ve never been a massive fan of testing, I just love racing! It’s probably the only year I would have asked for more days though, because we’ve got lots of work to do. We’ve never felt in the past that we were quicker than everyone else after testing because you never know what people are doing with the fuel and set-ups. We always just focus on understanding our car the best way we can so if I’m honest, I feel the same this year. We won’t know until we get to qualifying in two weeks’ time exactly where we stand.

“Today we made some improvements but it’s still not where we want to be. I can’t pick out any one area, it just feels globally through the lap that we need to improve. I’m looking forward to getting back into competition and back in that focus mode. Our team is all rowing in the same boat - we win and we lose together. I’m just happy to start another journey together with these boys and girls,” said the reigning world champion.

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes trackside engineering director highlighted the low-fuel performance as the W12’s main weakness, but he was happy with the balance of the car during high-fuel runs.

“We’ve had another day with good reliability where we were able to run to plan throughout the day. Valtteri was doing long run setup work in the morning and Lewis doing a mix of long run work and qualifying work in the afternoon. We’ve made a bit of progress with the balance on higher fuel and the car was more predictable but we can see from the data we’ve collected over the last few days that on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.

“The lower fuel work was a more confusing picture, we didn’t gain enough and we need to go and look at our approach as far too many cars were ahead of us on pace today. We’ve had issues in recent years with pace in winter testing and managed to make good progress before the first race but we may have our work cut out this time. We’ve not got long before we’re back here for the race so we’ve planned a programme of work to try and understand some of our issues and will be leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find some more speed over the next ten days.

Extremely high mileage for Räikkönen

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s pre-season came to a successful conclusion as the sun set on Bahrain. The third day of running on the Sakhir circuit saw Kimi Räikkönen notch the highest lap count across the board, with 166 laps to the Finn’s name. Today’s total brings the team's overall mileage for the three days of testing to 422 laps – 2,283.86km.

The 2007 world champion devoted his morning to long runs and a race simulation while he concentrated on performance runs in the cooler conditions of the afternoon session.

“It was a positive day from a work point of view. We got all we came here for and now we just have to see where we are when we’re back here racing in two weeks,” added the Finn.

“ Times in testing don’t mean anything and, right now, we don’t know how all the other teams are performing. But we know how our car does, and feeling wise, it is better than last year. I guess we are faster than at our best at the end of 2020, but whether that translate into a better performance in the races, that we will have to see.”

Commenting on the three days of testing, Alfa Romeo’s Technical Director, Jan Monchaux said: “Another very productive test day – possibly the most productive of the three - to bring our pre-season to an end. It was a flawless session in which we managed to achieve even more than we had set out to do: I think 422 laps over three days is a new record for our team.

"Kimi’s programme for today was similar to the one we had yesterday with Antonio and we carried out some very good work on both our race trim and qualifying performance. It was important to have a positive outcome today as the conditions were probably the most representative of what we will experience during the race weekend.

“The results are encouraging but we’re not getting carried away: we know there is still a lot of work to do. This was just a friendly game: just a milestone on the long road that is the 2021 season. We feel ready to start the championship and we feel better prepared than last year.

"The car was reliable throughout the week and we improved on the weaknesses we had in 2020. Now we have ten days to study all the data we have gathered and find a bit more performance on both the single lap and over a race distance. Everyone will have raised their game by the time we’re back here in two weeks’ time and we’ll need to be ready,” he concluded.

396 laps for Alpine F1 Team

Alpine F1 Team rounded off the pre-season test weekend in Bahrain with 139 laps completed on the third and final day split between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Esteban Ocon drove the team’s 2021 F1 challenger in the morning, completing 61 laps with a best time of a 1min 31.310secs on the C3 compound tyre. In the afternoon, Fernando Alonso took control of the A521, accumulating a total of 78 laps with a 1min 30.318secs on C4 tyres his best lap-time.

Alpine F1 Team’s Executive Director Marcin Budkowski commented: “This was a very solid test for us. We had an intense programme, almost trying to fit six days of testing into three, and we accomplished all of it without any significant problems.

“Our programme mostly focused on aerodynamic testing, especially in the area affected by the regulation changes, exploring set-up directions and getting the drivers accustomed to and confident in the new car. The team did an excellent job at the track matched with faultless support from the factories.

“We achieved our target of 130 laps per day and found some decent performance improvements over the three days. Each team had their own programme, so we won’t see what everyone’s got in hand before the first race in two weeks’ time. That said, we focus on ourselves and we feel well prepared for the start of the season,” he said.

Brilliant qualifying simulation for Tsunoda

AlphaTauri’s new Japanese recruit provided the biggest sensation of the day with Yuki Tsunoda posting the second fastest lap time of the three-day pre-season testing. The 20-year-old driver completed a total of 91 laps on his way to P2 on the closing day.

“Jumping out of the car in P2 today is a great feeling – of course you can’t get too ahead of yourself, as it’s only testing, but it’s great to finish the three days on a high,” added Tsunoda. “I’ve learnt so much over the last few days and collected crucial data for the team that we’ll now go back and analyse ahead of the first race.

“I think for me it’s great that we’re returning here so soon for the start of the season as I’ve managed to complete a lot of running here now and understand the track well. We’ve had a few small teething problems but that’s exactly what you’d expect from testing – we’re here to work everything out so we have the best possible package available to us come race day. I’ll continue working hard over the next few weeks and I’m excited for it to start!”

Pierre Gasly nochted up a total of 76 laps on Day 3 and completed 237 laps over the course of the three-day testing. The Frenchman posted a time of 1m30.828 on the final day which was only good enough for P12, but he set that time in much higher temperatures.

“Now that the three days of testing are over, I can’t wait to start racing, we’ve managed to complete our full testing schedule and have a good understanding of everything. Preparing for the race, we know the car’s strengths and we know where we can still make some improvements. I feel confident in the car and I think we’re in a much better place than we were this time last year.

“I think we know where we’ll be fast, and we have understood how to work on the car further. I really hope we can be in the fight this season and get some good points. Honda have also done a great job with the Power Unit and so far, we’re really happy with it – it’s a strong step forward, compared to last year, and the reliability has been perfect all three days, which is really positive. I’m excited for us to get to qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix because I think that’s when we’ll really see what everyone can do,” said the 2020 Monza race winner.

Reliability issues for Aston Martin

Ahead of its return to Formula One as a works team, the Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team endured a mixed pre-season testing with reliability issues hindering their preparation for the 2021 F1 season.

Ont he third and final day, Lance Stroll kickstarted the team’s work in a promising way, conducting setup work on high-fuel. The Canadian driver racked up high mileage with a total of 80 laps, registering his personal best with a 1:36.100.

“I’m very happy with today’s work. We ran to our programme and collected lots of useful data by doing race simulations and long runs,” started Stroll his assessment.

“We completed our job list for the day, which is a really good way to end the test after we lost out on a bit of running yesterday. We’ve got plenty of data to go over now to improve our understanding of the car, so that’s a nice position to be in – especially considering there were only three days of testing this year.

“I’m looking forward to starting the season here in Bahrain. We can go away now and make more improvements before we come back for the race.”

The team’s new driver Sebastian Vettel was dogged by horrible reliability over the last days with gearbox issues hindering his second day. The German was eager to make up for the lost mileage on Day 3, but another mechanical problem forced him to end his day prematurely when the team discovered a Mercedes power unit issue.

“We got plenty of laps on the board today, despite an early finish [caused by a loss of boost pressure]. Lance did a good amount of laps this morning too, so there’s a lot of data for us to work with,” said the German.

“My running today was very useful and the track conditions were better, so that was a big help in understanding this car. This test has definitely helped me learn where I can improve as a driver with the car and where the team can improve the AMR21 too. It’s been a good learning curve and I’m excited to keep progressing with the car. I’m looking forward to racing here in Bahrain in two weeks.”

Impressive pace for Red Bull Racing

Although pre-season testing has not always been Red Bull Racing’s strength over the past years, the Milton Keynes-based outfit was probably the most convincing team of all this time out.

The team’s new recruit Sergio Perez was behind the wheel of the RB16B in the morning, posting his best time with a 1:30.187 and racking up a total of 49 laps.

Commenting on his final stint in the RB16B before the start of the season, the Mexican said: “It’s crazy to think that pre-season has already finished, it feels like it only just started. I think this is the shortest pre-season ever in my career!

„There’s a very limited amount of running and testing but we managed to work through a lot of set-up options and are improving every time we get into the car. I’m very excited about the season and I think we’ve got a good car underneath us but I still have a lot to learn in the car to get the maximum out of it. The Team is doing a fantastic job.

„It doesn’t really matter where we start in Bahrain, it matters where we finish in Abu Dhabi. Now we just want to look forward to the race weekend. We’re going to take it step by step and be patient in the beginning and then things will come to us.”

It was Verstappen’s turn in the afternoon and after working through a busy programme mostly focused on medium compound tyres, the Dutchman also sampled the softer compound late in the afternoon to claim the fastest time of the three-day test with a lap of 1:28.960.

After his final outing, Max said: “It was another good day and we got through the whole programme. Conditions were a bit different to day one so we had to adjust the car a bit as we went along but from our side it was very smooth, as it has been throughout the whole test. I think we can say it has been a good weekend but of course that doesn’t give you any guarantees and all teams are doing different programmes at testing.

„We always look into what we can improve and for sure there are still things we want to work on but I think all teams will have that. We’ll find out for sure in a couple of weeks in Q3 where we really are but in general I would say the car feels good and I’m looking forward to going racing.”

Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin added: “Both sessions today were identical in terms of run plan. As opposed to the first couple of days, today was more about trying to optimise the car and understand where we’re going, so shorter runs, more set-up items, a bit more time in the garage. We were still doing some development work but also really getting the crew and the drivers up to speed in terms of procedures and pit stops.

„It was a similar plan for both drivers and similar results for both. Overall, this has been a positive test phase. Three days are never going to be enough; I don’t think anyone would say they are, but in terms of the time available, what we got out of this test was very useful. We’ve got a really good base to build from and we’re looking forward to coming back to Bahrain in a couple of weeks.”

Russell finally behind the wheel of the FW43B

After Roy Nissany and Nicholas Latifi sampled Williams’ 2021 car, the FW43B on the first two day of pre-season testing, it was George Russell behind the wheel on the third and final day before the action continues with the opening race of the 2021 F1 season.

The King’s Lynn-born driver posted a 1m30.117 to end up sixth fastest just a tenth of a second behind reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

„It was a very productive day and we put a lot of laps on the board, 158 in the end,” said Russell. „The team did a great job over these three days, we have had no reliability issues, and everything ran smoothly. Ultimately performance is what we are here for and I think we have a lot to analyse.

„Some of our competitors do seem very quick, but equally I think the conditions did not always favour us. We have lots to analyse but overall, it has been a positive test for the team.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, commented: „We can be pleased with our day’s work today. The car ran reliably throughout, which is testament to the skill and effort of all those in Grove and at the track involved in designing, manufacturing and operating it. We were able to complete over 850km of valuable running, which enabled us to do a lot of testing and to gain further experience of the new Pirelli tyres.

„We worked through a good programme that included all aspects of a typical race weekend and which stressed the team, including George. Everyone rose to the challenge and is now looking forward to the real test in a few weeks’ time.

„It is too early to comment on the pace of FW43B, but we are pleased with our initial findings. There are a lot of things to work on and improve, but we have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the car. We have a good opportunity over the next few days to identify areas that we can develop before the first race, and out of this will come some new test items and a run programme for FP1. We are looking forward to running the car again soon and seeing just how much we can extract from it,” Robson said.

Lots of laps for Haas on Sunday

Pre-season testing in Bahrain was completed with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin both in the car on Sunday. The German set 78 laps on the final day of pre-season testing, working through procedures, learning more on the balance of the car, and gaining additional experience managing tires on high fuel.

“Obviously, it was a bit sad that this was the last day of testing before driving here on the grand prix weekend,” added Schumacher. „Nevertheless, we have 23 races coming up this season, which is great. Again, it was a good productive day for me with a lot of laps – that’s always good.

„We’ve caught up with the losses from the first day. In general, I’d say we’re happy with how the test has gone. Day one was obviously a bit of shame as we lost opportunities for running but we’ve caught up and we got some pit stops in yesterday too. I’ve been able to experience day and night driving here, which was amazing. I’m very impatient to get going with the season now and I’m very much looking forward to it. It can’t come soon enough. I feel prepared and I’m very ready.”

Uralkali Haas F1 Team’s Russian driver Nikita Mazepin jumped in the car in the afternoon, focusing on shorter timed runs on the Pirelli C3 and C4 tires before some high-fuel runs to cap the day.

“The conditions were very nice out there today, certainly in comparison to Friday’s afternoon session – when the conditions weren’t good for getting the performance out of the car,” Mazepin assess his day. That said, for a rookie, it was a great learning experience to see how the car behaves with less grip. Today we focused in on low fuel runs for the first part of the afternoon and then we moved on to high fuel. We then finished off with some very productive pit stops.

„Testing’s been fun – and a very good learning curve. We started with very difficult conditions on day one, then we’ve progressed towards a more grippy track which means more opportunities to attract a lap time. The year is going to be long, but I think we’ve got the most out of these three days and the team’s done a great job.”