F1 testing Bahrain day 1: Gasly fastest but Mercedes steals the headlines


Pierre Gasly ended day one in Bahrain as the fastest in 2022 F1 testing but the Mercedes sidepods have rivals talking

Pierre Gasly, 2022 Bahrain test

Gasly was over half a second clear of the field on day one in Bahrain

Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Pierre Gasly ended day one of the final F1 test top of the times for AlphaTauri while Mercedes stole the attention with a new sidepod layout.

The Frenchman was the only man into the 1min 33s with a time 0.6sec quicker than anyone else. He was followed by the the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc following in second and third places respectively.

The timing screens suggested that Ferrari was the team to beat and rivals continue to tip the Scuderia as the pace-setter so far. During the lunchtime press conference, Mercedes’ George Russell and defending champion Max Verstappen both said that Ferrari looked strongest.

However, the ultra small sidepods on the Mercedes car, as well as the fin to support the rear view mirrors, had rivals talking — and questioning their legality — throughout the day.

Russell drove during the afternoon session and ended up ninth on the timing board, while Lewis Hamilton’s effort in the morning left him eleventh. The pair completed 122 laps for Mercedes.

Sergio Perez clocked 138 laps in a lone effort for Red Bull, which logged more miles than any other team. However, the Mexican ended the night stuck in the gravel after a spin and attempt to recover left him beached.

Elsewhere Alpine’s struggles continued with yet more teething problems while McLaren’s smooth running in Barcelona wasn’t repeated, as Daniel Ricciardo was taken ill and the car suffered brake troubles. Alfa Romeo quietly went about its business, achieving 93 laps after a difficult Spanish test last month.

Returning to the paddock was Kevin Magnussen, fresh from signing the contract to replace Nikita Mazepin at Haas, and telling journalists that it felt like a homecoming.

Morning session

All eyes were on Mercedes as the team unveiled its radical new sidepods on the first morning of the Bahrain test. Lewis Hamilton was one of the first cars out on track and the ultra-skinny design attracted plenty of attention from rivals.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested that the design went against the spirit of the regulations – before the team then hastily released a number of press releases, eventually settling on the verdict that its principal had made no “official comment”.

On track at least, the design hadn’t solved all of Mercedes’ problems despite the intrigue.

Esteban Ocon, 2022 F1 testing

Alpine were slow to get going in the morning

Mazen Mahdi / AFP) (Photo by MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images

Alpine had a slow start but the French team did get going as Esteban Ocon posted a time good enough for second place but things were all quiet on the McLaren and Haas front.

Daniel Ricciardo was supposed to drive the morning session but fell ill and was replaced by Lando Norris while Haas’s delayed freight meant it was a no show until the afternoon.

Perez awoke from a series of unexceptional laps with two and a half hours left of the morning session. He popped up to second place with a 1min 36.581sec. He had the highest lap count of any driver approaching the halfway stage, eventually clocking up 69 laps by lunch.

Leclerc was the one to watch still as he lowered the time to beat to a 1min 34.531sec on the C3 compound tyre.

Hamilton quickly followed with a decent time of his own to go second fastest, with the C3 tyres too. Another lock-up at Turn 10 cost him time but the 1min 36.365sec was good enough for second.

As Red Bull issued its series of statements denying Horner’s suggestions, Perez was once again on the move to move himself up to second, some 1.7sec adrift of Leclerc’s time.

Mercedes meanwhile continued to porpoise severely down the straights and was consistently poor at T10 compared to others.

Alpine meanwhile just looked sluggish in comparison to the rest as it worked to recover from a disappointing three days in Barcelona last month.

Zhou would have a slightly less eventful time than in Barcelona when he brought out two red flags, this time stopping in the entrance to pitlane after a run, having to get out the Alfa Romeo whilst his mechanics retrieved the car.

Lewis Hamilton 2022 F1 testing

Hamilton struggled at Turn 10 massively throughout the morning session

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel went fastest for Aston Martin early on with a 1min 38.803sec lap. He improved his time in the first hour down to a 1min 37.945sec but it was Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc that took the top spot as the first hour ticked down. The Monégasque was straight into the top spot with a 1min 35.953sec, comfortably clear of the rest.

Sergio Perez, Guanyu Zhou and Hamilton rounded out the top five at this point.

Leclerc’s time remained the benchmark at the end, but behind Alex Albon had leapt to second with a 1min 35.070sec, half a second of the Ferrari driver.

Behind the Williams was Vettel, a further seven tenths off. Perez and Hamilton ultimately filled out the top five.

Driver Car Time Laps
1. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 34.531sec 64
2. Alex Albon Williams 1min 35.070sec 53
3. Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1min 35.706sec 39
4. Sergio Perez Red Bull 1min 35.977sec 70
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 36.365sec 62
6. Esteban Ocon Alpine 1min 36.768sec 42
7. Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 1min 37.164sec 54
8. Lando Norris Mclaren 1min 37.580sec 21
9. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1min 37.888sec 44
10. Pietro Fittipaldi Haas No time 0



After missing out on the morning session, Haas was first out for the afternoon with Pietro Fittipaldi at the wheel though it was only for an exploratory lap.

McLaren had been another sow starter and made a hasty exit out of the pit lane with Norris continuing to make up for lost time after a brake issue in the morning session kept the team in the pits longer than hoped.

A brief problem in the Ferrari camp was rectified and the floor reattached for Carlos Sainz to assume control after his team-mate’s table-topping effort in the morning. Perez and Alonso joined in shortly afterward as no team seemed particularly keen to get out on track in the intense afternoon heat.

A brief red flag was brought out by Lance Stroll and Aston Martin after a piece of an aero rake came detached from his car but the stoppage was only brief.

George Russell was another to take over from their respective team-mate for the afternoon but, like Hamilton had in the morning, the Mercedes driver was suffering with porpoising along the straights.

Sergio perez, 2022 f1 testing

A late spin for Perez brought out the red flags and ended the session early

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

As temperatures dropped, lock ups only increased, particularly into the Turn 10 left-hander.

Alpine’s afternoon took a sizeable dent midway through the session as screens went up with mechanics examining the rear of the car. It was hardly the start to Bahrain testing the team had hoped for.

Perez and Albon were the first two into triple digits for lap count on Thursday. The Red Bull driver had more mileage but Albon’s 1min 35.070sec was good enough for P2 behind Leclerc’s morning effort. His joy was short-lived though as a steering problem forced him to limp back to the pits with just over an hour remaining of day one.

As the floodlights rapidly overtook the natural sort, the times continued to drift in but nothing spectacular until Gasly stuck in a time half a second clear. The 1min 34.010 on C4 tyres was comfortably the quickest of the day albeit in favourable conditions and on softer rubber.

With 45mins remaining of the night, Alonso returned to the circuit after several hours spent waiting for the Alpine to be fixed. His 14 laps for the day was easily the lowest of all as he headed back out onto track.

Not content with his earlier effort, Gasly lowered the benchmark still and was the first to dip into the 1min 33’s.

There was a very close call between Lance Stroll and Alonso on several occasions. The pair battled for track position for multiple corners through the first sector. Both narrowly avoided contact but the elbows were firmly out.

Mercedes’ woes at Turn 10 continued into the night as Russell clouted the kerbs on corner exit having locked up heavily on entry.

With eight minutes to go, a red flag was thrown after Perez beached his car on corner exit from Turn 8. A spin was embarrassing but his reversing into a rare gravel trap around the Sakhir Circuit resulted in his getting stuck, bringing a premature end to day one of Bahrain testing.

Driver Car Time Laps
1. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1min 33.902sec 102
2. Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1min 34.359sec 52
3. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 34.531sec 64
4. Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1min 34.736sec 50
5. Alex Albon Williams 1min 35.070sec 104
6. Lando Norris McLaren 1min 35.356sec 49
7. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1min 35.495sec 66
8. Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1min 35.706sec 39
9. George Russell Mercedes 1min 35.941sec 59
10. Sergio Perez Red Bull 1min 35.977sec 138
11. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 36.365sec 62
12. Fernando Alonso Alpine 1min 36.745sec 24
13. Esteban Ocon Alpine 1min 36.768sec 42
14. Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 1min 37.164sec 54
15. Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1min 37.422sec 47