2021 F1 Bahrain Testing F Max Verstappen Action Red Bull Photo
Max Verstappen in action Friday at Bahrain Int'l Circuit. (Red Bull photo)

Sandstorm Can’t Stop Red Bull As F-1 Testing Begins

SAKHIR, Bahrain – Despite a sandstorm that engulfed Bahrain Int’l Circuit for much of Friday, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen stood above the rest to lead the first day of Formula One preseason testing.

Verstappen, who turned 138 laps aboard the Red Bull RB16B, posted a best lap of 1:30.626 on Pirelli’s medium-compound tires to lead the 17 drivers turning at least one lap.

The Dutchman’s day of testing was nearly incident-free, save for a spin in the first session.

“We had a very positive day and managed a lot of laps, even though the track conditions were quite difficult,” noted Verstappen. “It was very warm with a lot of wind and we know the degradation is always high around here, so I’m very happy with how it went. We aimed for this number of laps and when you can complete a full program like this, the team can also be pleased with the information we have.

“We don’t need to talk about pace yet and it isn’t really a discussion until we get to Q3 at the first race weekend – it’s only then you see the real pace in all the cars,” he added. “The main thing is that the car felt nice to drive, so it’s a positive start.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris was second-quickest for the day, also on medium tires, with Alpine (formerly Renault) driver Esteban Ocon third overall on the soft-compound Pirelli tires.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll came in fourth-fastest late in the day on prototype Pirelli medium-compound tires, while Carlos Sainz closed the top five for Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo, who led the morning session in his first outing with McLaren, was seventh overall for the day.

Meanwhile, the first say of testing was forgettable for defending champions Mercedes AMG Petronas, who suffered a gearbox issue with Valtteri Bottas during the morning session before Lewis Hamilton completed 42 laps in the later session.

Hamilton was 10th on the timesheets, while Bottas ended up 17th.

A gearbox issue also hampered Mick Schumacher’s day with Haas F1 Team. Schumacher, the son of seven-time F-1 champion Michael Schumacher, was 16th fastest Friday.

Formula One testing at Bahrain Int’l Circuit continues Saturday.

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