Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Mercedes almost a second ahead as Hamilton leads first practice

2020 Bahrain Grand Prix first practice

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in the first Friday practice at Sakhir, after consistently topping the times all session.

Valtteri Bottas finished the session second and nearly half a second behind his team mate. Both chose to run two stints on the 2021-specification Pirelli C3 tyres that have been provided, although it wasn’t obligatory to run more than six laps during the session. The Mercedes cars ran an unusually high number of laps by their standards in practice, both clocking in over 40 in total, with final long runs on the 2021 test tyres.

Sergio Perez had a strong session, finishing third fastest having done 13 laps on the quickly-degrading soft tyres, more than any other driver. Carlos Sainz Jnr and Pierre Gasly were just behind him, ahead of both Red Bull cars, whose drivers were once again struggling for stability.

Max Verstappen was one of three drivers who had spins while running the soft tyre compound, which seemed very subject to Bahrain’s abrasive surface. Romain Grosjean had the most dramatic off, only narrowly keeping his Haas out of the wall at turn six. He was able to make it back to the pits on ruined tyres after his trip through the gravel. Leclerc and Verstappen both had less dramatic 360 degree spins at turns two and 14 respectively.

Both Renaults and the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll completed the top 10. The Ferrari pair were next, lapping within a tenth of a second of each other, followed by a quartet of similarly-engined cars.

Robert Kubica, who stepped in for another first practice run at Alfa Romeo, finished the session 13th, almost two tenths ahead of Giovinazzi. The pair were separated by the two Haas drivers. Grosjean complained about rear stability prior to his spin, although he finished ahead of team mate Kevin Magnussen.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniil Kvyat and Lando Norris all seemed not to get the chance for a representative time. Giovinazzi and Kvyat almost two seconds off the fastest pace and Norris languishing 2.359 seconds back, ahead of only the Williams cars. Roy Nissany took over George Russell’s car for the session, ending up last, but within four-tenths of a second of regular driver Nicholas Latifi.

Rear-end stability and front tyre degradation was a common complaint throughout the field. The 26C air temperature was much cooler than usual for F1’s visit to Bahrain. Leclerc said “even one lap” was enough to cause graining. Bottas also had several lock-ups during session, severely scuffing his front left on an early soft tyre run and then experiencing the same on his first Pirelli test stint.

A total of 17 lap times were deleted because drivers ran wide at turn four. Daniil Kvyat, one of several victims, urged race director Michael Masi on the radio to change how the corner was being policed.

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix First Practice classification

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’29.03340
277Valtteri BottasMercedes1’29.4820.44941
311Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’30.0000.96731
455Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’30.0180.98531
510Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’30.0491.01634
633Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’30.2941.26118
723Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’30.3021.26934
831Esteban OconRenault1’30.3841.35128
918Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’30.4261.39330
103Daniel RicciardoRenault1’30.5081.47530
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1’30.5891.55629
125Sebastian VettelFerrari1’30.6281.59524
1388Robert KubicaAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’30.7321.69924
148Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’30.8321.79928
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’30.8541.82129
1699Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’30.8961.86327
1726Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’31.0201.98737
184Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’31.3922.35927
196Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’32.4723.43929
2040Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’32.8013.76827

First practice visual gaps

Lewis Hamilton – 1’29.033

+0.449 Valtteri Bottas – 1’29.482

+0.967 Sergio Perez – 1’30.000

+0.985 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’30.018

+1.016 Pierre Gasly – 1’30.049

+1.261 Max Verstappen – 1’30.294

+1.269 Alexander Albon – 1’30.302

+1.351 Esteban Ocon – 1’30.384

+1.393 Lance Stroll – 1’30.426

+1.475 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’30.508

+1.556 Charles Leclerc – 1’30.589

+1.595 Sebastian Vettel – 1’30.628

+1.699 Robert Kubica – 1’30.732

+1.799 Romain Grosjean – 1’30.832

+1.821 Kevin Magnussen – 1’30.854

+1.863 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’30.896

+1.987 Daniil Kvyat – 1’31.020

+2.359 Lando Norris – 1’31.392

+3.439 Nicholas Latifi – 1’32.472

+3.768 Roy Nissany – 1’32.801

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Hazel Southwell
    Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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    9 comments on “Mercedes almost a second ahead as Hamilton leads first practice”

    1. One of the topics mentioned before this GP was that teams would start working on the 2021 season. That explains why Mercedes, with nothing more to gain, used 2 sets of the 2021 tyre and ran a lot of laps on it. Tyres are “all the rage” in F1 in the latest times, so start building on that… One of the reasons why even though it’s boring, Mercedes is justified, they keep on working to continue on top, regardless of the advantage they have over the others.

      1. @bakano What do you mean when it’s their big gap that allows them to focus earlier and more on coming cars, compared to other teams where it’s the exact opposite. This has been their advantage for years, especially with limited testing and development.

        1. They didn’t magically find the gap, they built it.

        2. @balue, Red Bull is guaranteed second place, there is nothing left to gain or to loose but still it seems that Mercedes is already focusing more on 2021 than Red Bull.
          As Boudi correctly put it, Mercedes got a big gap first as they got the engine right and had an early advantage, but they continue to work hard to keep that advantage. As we know that engine is not the only advantage they have as Racing Point with their 2019 clone shows: one year-old car is still very fast but is actually fighting in the so called midfield.

          This year shows that they work very hard still, even if because their advantage allows them. Ferrari went backwards (due to the engine agreement with FIA last year, no doubt) but Red Bull started with a bigger gap than last year. DAS is banned, but it was them, that were already far ahead that came up with that. No doubt they had the “margin” to allow resources to check that, but the truth is that no other team came up with that (or could make it work).

    2. I agree with Kvyat in a way as I feel that a physical deterrent right next to the curbing of some sort would be a better way of policing track limits than the detection loops for invalidating a lap time, especially at the exits of slower-speed corners.

    3. Am I missing something. Why not sub 1 minute lap times?

      1. Because this is the normal Sakhir layout, the outer “oval” is next weekend.

        1. For some strange reason I thought Bahrain had already held this race back at the start of the year hence why I made the wrong assumption that this had to be on the outer circuit. Thanks for clearing this up!

    4. What a waste of time it is running Kubica in practice. For this Orlen are paying good money?

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