Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Ricciardo tops morning times for McLaren as gearbox trouble delays Mercedes

2021 F1 season

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Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest time on the morning of the first day of testing for the new season.

But while the now Mercedes-powered McLaren team had a positive start to the sole, three-day pre-season test, the factory Mercedes team missed a considerable amount of running.

Ricciardo set his fastest lap on the C2 compound, the second-hardest for 2021, relatively early in running. Despite work on the car which kept him in the garage for part of the session, Ricciardo ran a total of 45 laps.

He ended the session narrowly ahead of Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen. The two Honda-powered drivers lapped within five-hundredths of a second of the McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Bottas only managed six laps for Mercedes
Mercedes’ running was severely disrupted after Valtteri Bottas suffered a transmission problem on his first lap out of the pits. The team removed the engine cover and brought screens out to work on the car before confirming that they would change the W12’s gearbox in order to minimise loss of running.

The change kept Bottas in the garage for over three hours and confined him to just six laps before he hands over to Lewis Hamilton this afternoon.

Mercedes weren’t the only team to suffered gearbox problems. Mick Schumacher’s running for Haas was limited by the same problem. He returned to the track with just over 20 minutes to go in the session and ultimately finished with just 15 laps on the board – a difficult start for the team who only managed to fire up the VF-21 this week, due to difficulties transporting their power unit from Ferrari to their factory.

Charles Leclerc stopped at turn four in the final 10 minutes, bringing out a red flag while his car was retrieved, without any apparent major problems. Running restarted for the final three minutes under Virtual Safety Car, which it allowed drivers to set installation laps for any changes but not to set new times, leaving Ricciardo fastest.

There were high winds all session, which threatened to develop into one of the region’s characteristics sandstorms. Later in the session drivers visibly struggled with stability in gusty conditions and with rising temperatures. The session started at around 27C air temperature and ended 8C higher, at a high of 35C.

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Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
13Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMCL35M1’32.20345
210Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriAT021’32.2310.02874
333Max VerstappenRed BullRB16B1’32.2450.04260
431Esteban OconAlpineA5211’32.9590.75655
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF211’33.2421.03959
67Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoC411’33.3201.11763
75Sebastian VettelAMR211’33.7421.53951
845Roy NissanyWilliamsFW43B1’34.7892.58639
947Mick SchumacherHaasVF-211’36.1273.92415
1077Valtteri BottasMercedesW121’36.8504.6476

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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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29 comments on “Ricciardo tops morning times for McLaren as gearbox trouble delays Mercedes”

  1. I see Mac has gone with the Mercedes style nose, ala AM of course.

    1. Roseate spoonbill nose

    2. Pretty sure they had already done this last year

      1. No I looked before I posted. Why I wanted to comment was because Zak Brown took every opportunity he could to jab at ‘Tracing Point’ last year for not building their own car, whereas they at Mac had. Of course I realize that overwhelmingly Mac will have built their own car this year compared to AM, but I got a chuckle out of it nonetheless.

        1. Hmmm you are right, I must have been thinking of RP

          1. If my recollection is correct, McLaren introduced the Mercedes style nose for the last couple of races in 2020. By bringing the 2021 nose in early, they avoided having to burn a token.
            I definitely recall noticing this at the last race in Abu Dhabi.
            So are they copying RP or MB.? Flattery in either case.

          2. Confirmed, McLaren had this nose configuration in Abu Dhabi 2020.

          3. @rekibsn Yeah just checked that out too. Obviously I looked at a pic from last year of their previous nose. Good spot oh sharp-eyed one. Doesn’t change my chuckle level aimed at Zak Brown though;)

    3. @robbie I think if you check you will find the issues the other teams including Zak Brown had with the pink Mercs were the changes to the internal parts that could not be seen or photographed. That’s why RP lost points and the rules changed to stop that. Copying aero is still allowed simply because it would be pointless to try and ban something that with time and development will converge anyway.

      1. @johnrkh Oh for sure I hear you there, although I thought the issue became the visible rear brake ducts that RP could not prove they designed enough on their own. It was still the degree to which they copied that Brown particularly seemed to have an issue with, and while almost legal last year, and likely fully legal this year in terms of how they went about it, Brown’s contention would still be that he disagrees a team should copy that much in general, even if legal. I’m sure he’s taken his issues to F1 and FIA as they are the ones that set the rules for what is acceptable and what is not, not AM, however it does seem a sore spot with him.

  2. Abnormally warm for Sakhir and or Bahrain and the Gulf region in general at this time of year. Months from May to September are the worst temperature-wise, so weird to see the mid-30s figures in the second quarter of March.

    Lap times, of course, as always mean nothing in testing, but glad to have F1 track action back.

    1. Coventry Climax
      12th March 2021, 12:12

      Let’s just hope the Huski’s don’t melt.

    2. @jerejj And a La Nina year too. This does not bode well.

  3. Coventry Climax
    12th March 2021, 12:08

    Refresh my memory please, which gearbox do McLaren use?
    Personally wouldn’t mind if Merc were a little less than perfect this season, but it would be ashame to see other teams suffering from the same imperfections.

    1. McLaren gearbox

  4. Mercedes may eventually overcome the laps deficit with their engineering power. I’m more worried for Haas as their direct rivals lodged many more laps this morning, hopefully it isn’t too bad.

    1. Was shocked to see MSC being used. Why not SCH? We don’t have two Schumachers on the grid anymore so just go with the standards…

      1. If you are going to milk the nostalgia dollar dry from those who fixate on the 1990s and 2000s, you might as well go the full way on cashing in on the association with his father and use the same initials.

        1. Both eras certainly more interesting that the completely uncompetitive hybrid era.

      2. When Mick Schumacher was in GP3 in 2019, there was also a Fabio Scherer. Since both had claim to SCH, someone had to change…

        1. So who changed? David to DSC?

  5. I am a bit puzzled on two fronts.

    1. When you only have 3 days of testing, why can’t they allow 2 cars per team like in MotoGP? It allows everyone a reasonable time, drivers can drive for three full days, engineers get twice the data and doesn’t significantly add to costs.

    2. Since testing is in Bahrain and we’ve a night race, it’d have been a lot better to stick to an afternoon to night testing time again like MotoGP is doing in Qatar starting at around 2pm till 9pm.

    I am sorry to bring up the MotoGP comparison but they just seem to be doing better with organising.

    1. @neelv27 The standard is to have eight hours of track running in pre-season testing, so if the running time started in the afternoon and ended in the evening, it’d at maximum only be about half of that.

      1. @jerejj Yes but isn’t that still better? Also running two cars will also help?

        1. @neelv27 Not necessarily better considering the overall number of test days, but the two cars per team thing. From my understanding, the intention for this long-standing tradition is to try and avoid unnecessary traffic on track.

    2. @neelv27 1) Cost. Running two cars is more expensive than running one – unless you propose to have 1 1/2 days total for testing. That’s also why testing is so limited in the first place.

      2) Varying conditions makes it harder for the big teams to get more advantage than smaller teams from testing at a venue where racing is happening in the next few weeks.

  6. Quite exciting to be underway. Good reliability for most, but disheartening to see Bottas already on the back foot.

  7. this mclaren livery makes every helmet looks plain and boring.

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