Daniel Ricciardo has topped the first practice session of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix as the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers duke it out in race simulations.
Free Practice 1 got underway with the weather at the Sakhir International Circuit typically hot and blustery. Max Verstappen’s weekend started disastrously, on his installation lap the Dutchman’s Red Bull ground to an agonising halt just before the pit-lane entrance. An electrical problem with Verstappen’s engine was the official diagnosis, ending his session before it begun.
The Ferraris were the first of the front runners to set competitive laps, but the Mercedes boys soon flexed their muscles. Valtteri Bottas and then Lewis Hamilton topped of the standings, the latter with a 1:32.532, over a second faster than the red cars at that stage.
The slippery surface at Bahrain catches even the most experienced drivers, so it’s little surprise that the likes of Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll both spun at Turn 7 when a gust of wind afflicted the corner.
It was inevitable that the supersofts, the fastest compound available this weekend, made an appearance and when they did, times tumbled. The delta – difference in performance – between the different tyres seems much higher than in Australia as Romain Grosjean temporarily topped the session in the impressively rapid Haas.
Mercedes, though, soon reclaimed their top spot, Bottas but the Ferraris were breathing down their necks. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were within a tenth of Valtteri. Such were the top two teams’ speed, that they didn’t even require the red striped rubber to go fastest.
However, before the session ended, there was one more change at the summit as Daniel Ricciardo sensationally took P1. The Aussie was on the same tyres as the front runners and a three tenths gap to the rest of the field will be very encouraging for Red Bull. Hamilton would end up in fifth, never managing to get a full flying lap in, while Grosjean was once again best of the rest in sixth. A mention should also go to Pierre Gasly, as the Frenchman was a terrific seventh in his struggling Toro Rosso.
Mercedes and Ferrari were likely waiting to fully unleash their engines, but Ricciardo’s lap is extremely impressive and was no fluke. FP2 later in the day will be run under the lights and give us a more accurate representation for qualifying and the race, but Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull both look closely matched around this circuit.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:31.060|
|7||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+1.719|
|16||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+2.437|
|18||Sergio Perez||Force India||+2.602|
|19||Esteban Ocon||Force India||+2.734|
|20||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||No time|