Red Bull ended F1 testing fastest after new upgrades looked to do the trick on day three in Bahrain. Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen finished fastest in the morning and afternoon sessions respectively, with the latter top of the pile at the end.
A new design of the sidepods was flown in overnight from the UK and fitted to the car which the team says has improved performance and behaved as expected.
Ferrari ended up second overall and look to be in a battle with Red Bull as the fastest teams. Charles Leclerc set his best time on the C3 medium compound tyres, two steps harder than Verstappen’s effort.
Fernando Alonso popped up inside the final five minutes of the test for Alpine to round out the top three, though the French team looks some way from full performance after a difficult few days.
George Russell was the best-placed Mercedes driver, fourth in the times and almost eight-tenths of a second down on the lead Red Bull by the end. The team maintains it is well behind the top two but its rivals are sceptical.
Elsewhere, AlphaTauri logged the most laps of the day overall, finishing up on 148 laps between Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.
The morning was spent looking at long run pace but as the floodlights came on, the focus switched to one-lap pace. With the weather much cooler than on day two and with the wind dying down, conditions were more representative for the final day, but the usual testing caveats of fuel levels and engine modes apply.
Plenty of drivers were out on track right away to kick off the final day of running including Williams after the fiery end to day two.
The team said that it was not 100% about what caused the brake fire but that it expected no more repeats on the final day of running.
Mercedes was also straight out on track with Lewis Hamilton. The team had no new upgrades for the third day of testing and was continuing to evaluate set-up on the apparently tricky W13. Hamilton focused in on race runs in the morning session.
Lando Norris set the early pace for McLaren as the team chased lost time after a difficult test so far. His 1min 35.504sec was half a second clear of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari in P2. A switch from the C3 mediums to the C4 softs and Norris was in line for an improved time until a wide moment at the final corner lost him the lap that was set to be several tenths quicker.
Red Bull finally emerged after its much-anticipated upgrades had been fitted, revealing a new, tighter packaging at the rear of the sidepods leading to the rear of the floor. Perez was immediately up to speed and went fastest with just under an hour run with a 1min 34.733sec on C3s.
Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou was quietly building up a decent lap count and was the next driver to take the top spot on a 1min 34.543sec. Perez briefly took that back as the two battled for P1 on the timing screens which Zhou eventually won. The benchmark effort down into the 1min 33s.
Just as the clock ticked towards halfway through the morning, Perez popped in a 1min 33.105sec, the fastest time of the test to that point. His time was done on the C4 tyres but was the first sign of Red Bull beginning to stretch the car during testing.
Long runs were the focus for the next hour but an encouraging sign emerged with just over an hour left.
Pierre Gasly and Hamilton engaged in an almost 10 lap-long scrap on track, with each driver able to remain within a comfortable one second window when trailing the other.
Multiple overtakes across multiple laps are a good sign for the racing this season, but it almost ended in tears at Turn 4. A switchback pass set up by Hamilton at Turn 1 left Gasly off the track at Turn 4 in his defence, and as the AlphaTauri moved to rejoin the two almost collided.
Mercedes spoiled the party though and at the end of the lap, Hamilton made a pit stop as part of his race run. He completed the race stint on the hardest three compounds available.
After the highs of yesterday for Haas, crashing lows followed. Kevin Magnussen put up the lowest lap count of anybody due to an issue on the car that kept him in the garage for the middle part of the session with just 38 completed tours. The team was able to fix the problem but will be chasing to catch up in the afternoon.
A red flag was thrown with 15mins remaining in the morning session though there were no on-track stoppages or crashes. Another planned FIA race restart procedure was instead the cause. It effectively ended the morning’s running early as drivers wrapped up or had already finished race sims.
Morning session times
|Driver||Team||Best time||Total laps|
|1||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||1min 33.105sec||43|
|2||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||1min 33.959sec||82|
|3||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1min 34.856sec||91|
|4||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1min 34.905sec||68|
|5||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||1min 35.328sec||54|
|6||Lando Norris||McLaren||1min 35.504sec||39|
|7||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1min 35.634sec||73|
|8||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1min 36.029sec||53|
|9||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1min 36.217sec||78|
|10||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1min 38.616sec||38|
There was no major rush to get back out on track for anyone other than Alfa Romeo. Valtteri Bottas was immediately out on track but the shutters were up at Red Bull and Ferrari while McLaren had its car up on stands.
A brief virtual safety car was deployed to recover debris on the exit of Turn 4 half an hour into the afternoon period after a piece of Williams flew off the right-hand side of the car. Replays showed that Bottas ran over the debris and was soon into the pits for a precautionary check over.
While race sims were the name of the game in the morning, the focus was very much on single lap pace in the afternoon. Nobody set the timing screens alight but Max Verstappen moved into third place with two and half hours of the afternoon left. His 1min 34.467sec came on the C2 hard compound tyres.
Charles Leclerc was also on the C2s at a similar point in the session but lapping several seconds off the pace in the 1min 35s and down in P12. Similarly, George Russell in the Mercedes was just seventh fastest running on the C3, medium compound tyres.
Verstappen then switched to the same compound and put himself almost half a second clear of team-mate Perez and over a second quicker than any other team with a 1min 32.645sec.
With just over two hours remaining in the test, Russell headed back out on the soft C4 tyres for a qualifying sim. It moved him up just one spot on the first flyer, almost a full second behind Perez and 1.5sec down on Verstappen’s earlier effort.
The first red flag of the afternoon was thrown after a spin for Mick Schumacher out of the final corner left him sliding towards pit entry. Opening a lap, he lit up the rear tyres and was sent sideways, but was able to catch the half spin before hitting the barriers.
Schumacher recovered immediately to the pit lane and the session was green again moments later.
Ferrari finally fitted the C4 tyres for Leclerc to go for a lap and he didn’t disappoint. His 1min 32.415sec was 0.2sec clear of Verstappen as the screw finally began to turn at the top.
Further behind, Alonso moved Alpine up the timings to P6, a tenth off of Sebastian Vettel’s time in fourth. Zhou remained in the top five sandwiched between the world champions.
There was another close call between AlphaTauri and Mercedes on track as Russell tried to pass Yuki Tsunoda into Turn 11. A bit of confusion left both fighting over the same piece of track, but they fortunately avoided any contact.
Finally there were signs of life at Mercedes as Russell moved the team into third place with a 1min 32.888sec, still four-tenths down on the fastest from Leclerc and the British driver was on the softest C5 compound. He later improved his time by a tenth but remained third heading into the final hour of running.
Mick Schumacher was the next driver on the move, climbing to fifth position on the C3 mediums.
Drivers continued to log the laps but for Bottas, testing ended early. The Finn got stuck in anti-stall, forcing him off the road at Turn 8 and ending the test for Alfa Romeo. The car was recovered but not without a red flag.
Running went back to green with 27mins left of the session with Red Bull and Mercedes on the softest rubber.
Verstappen was winding up for a fast lap but spun out of the final corner in the same fashion as Schumacher earlier. He gathered up the pirouette without causing another stoppage and went on his way. The next effort was much better, setting the fastest time of the test on a 1min 31.973sec, almost half a second quicker than Leclerc.
With just eight minutes to go, he went better still, setting a 1min 31.720sec to extend his and Red Bull’s advantage at the top.
Alonso was up into third inside the last minutes of the test to end the week on a high for Alpine after a difficult few days.
|Driver||Team||Best time||Total laps|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1min 31.720sec||53|
|2||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1min 32.415sec||51|
|3||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||1min 32.698sec||122|
|4||George Russell||Mercedes||1min 32.759sec||71|
|5||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||1min 32.985sec||68|
|6||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1min 33.002sec||57|
|7||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||1min 33.105sec||43|
|8||Mick Schumacher||Haas||1min 33.151sec||57|
|9||Lando Norris||McLaren||1min 33.191sec||90|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1min 33.821sec||81|
|11||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||1min 33.959sec||82|
|12||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1min 34.865sec||91|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1min 34.905sec||68|
|14||Alex Albon||Williams||1min 35.171sec||18|
|15||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1min 35.634sec||124|
|16||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1min 36.029sec||53|
|17||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1min 36.217sec||78|
|18||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1min 38.616sec||38|