Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Verstappen pips Tsunoda in Honda-powered one-two as testing ends

2021 F1 season

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Red Bull ended pre-season testing with a show of strength, topping the morning and afternoon sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Max Verstappen picked up where team mate Sergio Perez left off in the afternoon, setting the fastest time of all three days of testing so far. AlphaTauri’s rookie Yuki Tsunoda put a second Honda-powered car in the top two, less than a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull.

The Honda-powered pair swapped the fastest time repeatedly during the final hours of testing. Verstappen took it first, only to be beaten by Tsunoda as he swapped the medium compound tyres for softs.

Verstappen eventually emerged on top but there was little to choose between them, and the rookie’s laps were not entirely error-free, suggesting there was pace left in the AlphaTauri. However Tsunoda ultimately set his fastest time on the softest C5 compound while Verstappen used the C4s.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
AlphaTauri rookie Tsunoda impressed with second-fastest time
Sebastian Vettel’s final day of running for Aston Martin ended early, the team blaming a loss of turbo boost pressure. Carlos Sainz Jnr did not have a smooth day either, suffering a hydraulic fault on his Ferrari, confining him to their garage for an extended period. However he was able to get running again in the final half-hour and set the third-fastest time, covering 79 laps.

Despite late runs on soft tyres, Lewis Hamilton was unable to set a time to challenge the Red Bull or AlphaTauri drivers. He seemed uncomfortable in the car, grappling with the W12 and running wide, even spinning out of the final turn while setting up one lap.

Hamilton finished fifth-fastest, 1.3 seconds adrift of Verstappen’s time, set on the same tyre compound. Mercedes have covered the fewest laps of any team.

Testing concluded with a bizarre incident between Sainz and Kimi Raikkonen, who ended the day third and fourth respectively on the times sheet. The Ferrari driver dived up the inside of Raikkonen at turn 10, the pair making contact. They ran wide, and Sainz sprinted after Raikkonen as they retuned to the pits.

Conditions this afternoon continued as favourably as in the morning, without any further sandstorms or high winds. As a consequence, times fell across the board. Every team besides Aston Martin improved their lap times on the final day of running before the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

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Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
133Max VerstappenRed BullRB16B1’28.96064
222Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriAT021’29.0530.09391
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF211’29.6110.65179
47Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoC411’29.7660.806166
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW121’30.0251.06554
663George RussellWilliamsFW43B1’30.1171.157158
73Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMCL35M1’30.1441.18476
811Sergio PerezRed BullRB16B1’30.1871.22749
914Fernando AlonsoAlpineA5211’30.3181.35878
1016Charles LeclercFerrariSF211’30.4861.52680
114Lando NorrisMcLarenMCL35M1’30.6611.70156
1210Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriAT021’30.8281.86876
1331Esteban OconAlpineA5211’31.3102.35061
149Nikita MazepinHaasVF-211’31.5312.57167
1547Mick SchumacherHaasVF-211’32.0533.09378
1677Valtteri BottasMercedesW121’32.4063.44686
175Sebastian VettelAston MartinAMR211’35.0416.08156
1818Lance StrollAston MartinAMR211’36.1007.14080

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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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20 comments on “Verstappen pips Tsunoda in Honda-powered one-two as testing ends”

  1. Very pleased with the mileage Sauber managed throughout the test and the pace doesn’t seem to be too bad either. Gonna be a mighty battle in the midfield.

    1. Great to see Stewart & Minardi at the top of the timesheets too.

      1. Yeah you’re right, but I’m still expecting Tyrrell to be on top.

        1. Seriously though, I think that’s what we all assume, but they have to falter at since point…

          1. And Tyrrell’s power train supplier seemed to have the most technical issues.

        2. I don’t expect to see Jordan at the bottom for long, and I’m very intruiged to see Toleman’s engine cover design.

      2. @psynrg where are Toleman though?

    2. @huhhii
      Yes, their mileage and pace looked very good indeed. The Alfa seems to be very easy on its tyres, because Kimi was the only driver I saw today, before the lunch break, who went quicker during his stints on his race sim. Others might have better raw pace, but the Alfa is easier on its tyres, which might save them a pit stop or give them better strategical options during a race (i.e. run a softer compound during their final stint).
      It might hurt them, on the other hand, on tracks with relatively smooth surfaces (Monaco, Paul Ricard, Sochi, etc.) or on tracks where Pirelli made a too conservative tyre choice.
      They have definitely made the jump right into the midfield and definitely clear ahead of Williams & Haas.

  2. Not sure what to make of Aston Martin besides reliability issues. Was this the wrong year to copy Mercedes?

  3. Great to see George Russell up there in the Williams – and putting in a huge number of laps.

  4. I’m not excited (sadly) about this lap times as Hamilton pole position lap time was 1:27.2 just 4 months ago

    1. @stigf1l The new regulations for this year were expected to increase lap times by 1-1.5 seconds, so I’d say low to mid 1:28s might be the ultimate lap time right now on the same tyre compounds as last year.

      1. @mashiat Not that much. I’ve seen 0.5 somewhere, but in general, no specific estimation has really come out regarding lap times. Only on the DF levels, which is a 10% loss. I expect a pole time between last year’s and 2019, i.e., only slower than the outright record but faster than the previous ones. Or at least high-1m27s (2019 and 2018), I reckon. Next year is another matter in this regard.

    2. Nobody is going flat out, max. power and lowest level of fuel during testing. That’s not what testing is about and never was. Teams have different programmes and want to understand how their cars behave, where it needs improvement.
      Some teams will always push more than others. Do you really think Alpha Tauri are just 0.1 slower than RB?! Most certainly not.
      Mercedes were definitely holding back on their fastest laps (power and fuel level), but it’s hard to imagine them being considerably faster than RB. That’s not gonna happen. I’d be surprised if they even beat RB at the season opener in two weeks.

  5. With testing done and dusted, it’s time for some predictions! I think this year will be a walk-over for Verstappen. Last year Mercedes only had a couple of tenths in hand on Verstappen (especially in the second half of the season), and I think they have lost more than a couple of tenths.

    The question is whether Mercedes have fallen back into what has been Red Bull’s spot for the past couple of years, or whether they are so slow they will be mired in the midfield. I suspect that at least for the opening couple of races, they will be scrapping to get into Q3.

    One thing I am not entirely clear on is how much teams are allowed to develop the cars this year under the current token system. If Mercedes have made a car that is a second a lap slower, will they be stuck with it for the rest of the year?

    1. @adrianmorse I like your optimism, but I still predict another double for Mercedes, meaning a record-breaking 8th WDC win for HAM. I don’t have any doubts about Mercedes, given their record since 2014. No way they’d end up battling in the midfield nor struggling to get into Q3. The upcoming season will probably be a similar story to the last, with Mercedes and Red Bull comfortably above the rest on outright pace in this order, followed by a tight midfield and the trio of Williams-Alfa Romeo-Haas at the back (I predict in this specific order).

      1. @jerejj Agree. The qually gap last year was around 0.4s even in the latter half and that’s not something you jump on an iteration car. Perez might upset Mercedes strategic advantage somewhat, but when you think how massive the points gaps were last year, it’s unrealistic to think that will affect the outcome.

        The midfield is what’s going to be exciting. I was about to predict the Aston Martin team 3rd fastest again, but who knows now. Let’s see some testing analysis first.

        1. @balue
          The qualy gap was even bigger than the 0.5s before the party mode ban because Mercedes were able to run an aggressive downforce set up relying on their PU to compensate for the resultant drag on the straights. Once the ban was effective, the Mercedes guys removed some noticeable parts on the car and eased a bit downforce wise. Add to that the fact that they gave up on the development of their car earlier than usual because they already have both championships on the bag.
          The gap at the end of the year can be misleading though and in normal conditions they are still in a league of their own unless something extraordinary happens to disrupt their dominance.

          1. They stopped the development in 2020 but for now the result of all the 21 development is not so good.
            Some hefty work for merc ahead to claim their position.

  6. Happy to see Tsunoda acclimatising very rapidly. I really hope he has a podium this year. Would love to potentially see him in Japan next year in the new cars, that would be a memorable first trip to Suzuka.

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