Verstappen stays on top in second practice, pursued by Norris

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix second practice

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Max Verstappen completed a perfect first day of the Formula 1 season for Red Bull by going fastest under the floodlights in the second free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

As with today’s earlier session, the second has also been reduced in length from 90 minutes to 60. The entire field joined the track soon after the evening session began.

It didn’t take long for yellow flags to appear, as Haas’s Nikita Mazepin went off going down the hill after turn four. He wasn’t the only driver caught out as winds unsettled the cars coming over the crest of the turn four hairpin.

Where Mazepin went off was also were track limits were now being monitored, as the race directors elected after first practice to change where they were policing track limits abuse.

The first major moment of drama occurred at turn three, as Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen spun on the apex kerb and lost his front wing against a barrier on the outside of the track. He was able to return to the pits, but lost valuable running while his car was being repaired.

Meanwhile the rest of the field were on soft tyre runs simulating their qualifying runs, which will be held in similar conditions just after sunset on Saturday. Mercedes were one-two at the time of Raikkonen’s crash, with Lewis Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas, and Red Bull pairing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were third and fourth.

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Red Bull went a different way on strategy to Mercedes and Ferrari, who used another fresh set of soft tyres for their drivers, which temporarily elevated Maranello’s new recruit Carlos Sainz Jnr to the top of the times. Hamilton got back ahead soon afterwards, despite traffic, while McLaren’s Lando Norris timed his encounter with slower cars much better, slipstreaming his way to the fastest lap with his Mercedes-powered MCL35M.

Verstappen managed to beat his benchmark by 0.095 seconds with a 1’30.847, before most of the field elected to switch to the slower medium compound tyre as the track got closer to conditions suitable for long runs and the order at the top went unchanged as a result.

The medium tyre runs still had their fair bit of drama, with drivers repeatedly locking up the longer they went into their stints, and track limits abuse being laps were frequently deleted. Bottas was one of the top offenders for lost laps, while team mate Hamilton frequently pushed his rubber to its limits through the downhill turns eight and 10 hairpins.

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix second practice result

Pos. No. Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1’30.847 23
2 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’30.942 0.095 25
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’31.082 0.235 24
4 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’31.127 0.280 26
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’31.218 0.371 23
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’31.230 0.383 22
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1’31.294 0.447 23
8 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’31.393 0.546 24
9 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1’31.483 0.636 27
10 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1’31.503 0.656 23
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’31.601 0.754 24
12 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’31.612 0.765 26
13 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’31.740 0.893 27
14 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’31.769 0.922 26
15 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’31.770 0.923 24
16 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’31.862 1.015 15
17 63 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1’32.331 1.484 28
18 47 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’33.297 2.450 24
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’33.400 2.553 28
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1’33.449 2.602 19

Second practice visual gaps

Max Verstappen – 1’30.847

+0.095 Lando Norris – 1’30.942

+0.235 Lewis Hamilton – 1’31.082

+0.280 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’31.127

+0.371 Valtteri Bottas – 1’31.218

+0.383 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’31.230

+0.447 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’31.294

+0.546 Lance Stroll – 1’31.393

+0.636 Pierre Gasly – 1’31.483

+0.656 Sergio Perez – 1’31.503

+0.754 Esteban Ocon – 1’31.601

+0.765 Charles Leclerc – 1’31.612

+0.893 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’31.740

+0.922 Sebastian Vettel – 1’31.769

+0.923 Fernando Alonso – 1’31.770

+1.015 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’31.862

+1.484 George Russell – 1’32.331

+2.450 Mick Schumacher – 1’33.297

+2.553 Nicholas Latifi – 1’33.400

+2.602 Nikita Mazepin – 1’33.449

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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33 comments on “Verstappen stays on top in second practice, pursued by Norris”

  1. Sir Lewis Hamilton

  2. “Mclaren-Mercedes” it’s nice to see that in print again.

  3. The cars look so pathetically slow on the race runs due to how much extreme tire management seems to be required this year.

    The race run averages were 8-10 seconds slower than the qualifying run & it takes away so much of the spectacle of watching the cars when they are that slow & drivers are so obviously having to baby the tires that much.

    Something else I picked up is drivers talking about how the new tires have moved the balance towards understeer which i’m not sure will be a positive for the racing as i’d think that may make following closely even harder.

    1. I will wait for the race to see this. But I have already had a horrible feeling in testing because the cars were so slow. I thought these tyres were designed to be more durable?

      1. @roger-ayles I must admit that both in testing & practice today the drivers did seem like they were doing a lot of tyre management which did makes cars look quite a bit slower/less exciting to watch.

        Was especially obvious when watching the OnBoards just how careful they were all trying to be with the tyres.

      2. @krichelle

        I thought these tyres were designed to be more durable?

        Not specifically.

        The changes for this year were more about strengthening the construction to help the tyres withstand the sort of loads the cars put into them now. The aero changes to the floor/diffuser of the cars was also done to try & slow cars & take a bit of the stress of the tyres to try & prevent a repeat of the Silverstone failures we saw last year.

        The compounds are I think broadly similar to last year although the changes to the construction will alter the thermal characteristics of the tyre & I did hear some talk after testing that they overheat a bit quicker now & that thermal management will be even more important this year.

      3. @krichelle Stronger, but not necessarily more durable

    2. @roger-ayles @krichelle
      The gap is still mainly down to the difference in fuel loads as has been the case ever since in-race refuelling got banned.

    3. The track was incredibly slow today, two seconds off the testing times on same tyres. I wouldn’t read too much into it.
      The long runs were also about two seconds slower than in testing. And let’s not forget Bahrain is possibly the hardest track on tyres on the whole calendar.

      1. @srga91 Well said and something for @roger-ayles to take note of rather than him assuming what we have seen so far at this track is what will be written in stone for the whole season. Oh I don’t defend these terrible tires, but I am quite sure different tracks will treat the tires differently and as well the teams have more yet to learn about them given they haven’t even run one race on them.

  4. Is HRT is back as Haas Racing Team this year?

    1. No, It’s MRT – Mhaasepin racing team 😜

    2. Haas Replacement Therapy.

    3. @hunocsi Hehe, ironic that..

  5. @roger-ayles It’s mostly fuel that causes the slower race-pace lap times. 100kg is about 6 to 7 seconds in time loss. The rest is tire management, which to some extent is inevitable if you’re driving more than one lap on a set.

    The only way to solve the race fuel issue is re-introducing refueling during the race again. That would reduce the racing to driving to a strategy and make it more time-trial racing than racing each other on track. Been there, done that. I wouldn’t be a fan of it.

    1. Or run qualifying with race fuel

  6. Top 15 covered by less than a second is nice to see.

  7. The Sky coverage had some graphic I haven’t spotted before based on fastest sector times etc. and had Hamilton two-tenths up on pace followed by VER and BOT. Hmm.
    Sainz already looking good at Ferrari and Tsunoda likewise at Alpha.

    1. That was already there last year. I think it was also shown at Bahrain or Sakhir.

      1. @krichelle Thanks, I don’t always catch the Sky coverage of free practice.

  8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    26th March 2021, 17:20

    It’s obvious that all the regulations and changes have made it hard for Mercedes to compete – it’s no longer a level playing field. I guess it’s Toto’s turn to lodge a protest against Red Bull and McLaren for their blistering pace.

    Now, Lewis has no choice but to dig deep and pull a rabbit out of his helmet :-)

    1. He’s like 2 tenths down, and it is Friday practise…

    2. @freelittlebirds Such surprisingly little faith in Mercedes. Such a poor attitude already with ‘lodging protests’ comments. You sound like a sore winner and they haven’t even run one race.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        27th March 2021, 12:14

        @robbie this comment flew right over your head :-)

  9. Jockey Ewing
    26th March 2021, 17:23

    It would be nice to have detailed stats from the last season about sustained race pace vs qualification laps pace. For example I would be intertested in : sustained average laptime, sustained laptime per team, average quali laptime, average quali laptime per team. But it seemed to me that at their slower laps of races entrants were about 5-6 seconds or even more off their own quali pace at the last season. By slower laps I mean, the average laps of a race stint where they managed the tyres, but had no problems otherwise, so careful laps of a race stints. Imo it is a fair estimation, as the race’s best lap for one used to be at about 2-3seconds slower than the quali lap of the same driver.

    So where is the suprise? Imo nowhere. But still, seeing 5-6 seconds and even slower laps compared to quali pace is somwehat bothering me.

    But imo this is the result of the quite hard compounds, and the one stop strategy on them.
    Price + R&D costs, sustained / peak performance (laptime in this case), reliability / durability are counteracting each other, are always compromising each other you can’t get all three in the positive direction at the same time.

    The compounds got more durable or reliable for this season, they can’t go faster on them. They cut downforce generated by the floor. I guess that is mainly rear downforce. I guess lower rake cars having less downforce on general. Probably they are less pointy as well, but most of the constructors apart from Red Bull already gave up adopting high rake, at least for now, so basically all of them are facing the same effects.

    Happy to see that Tsunoda is still doing well, and Schumacher is doing better than Mazepin. Probably Haas and Williams will have each other to race with. While if McLaren fitted the Mercedes engine comparably well as the Renault engine, challenging the engine supplier’s team in both case, then that car is likely a great example of good design.

    1. Alpha Tauri has even more rake than Red Bull and is doing extremely well, so could be that high rake cars is the advantage ATM.

  10. Top 15 all within a second! If it stays that would be really exciting. But I expect Mercedes and Redbull to have little bit in hand. But it really seems that we finally have a competition up front.
    So far Ferrari a bit better and Renault a bit worse than expected but of course still early days.
    Quali can’t come soon enough.

  11. Silly silly man Fernando, should of just stayed on the f1 grid. You woulda probably beat Gasly last year in Monza in the car instead of Sainz. Gonna be hilarious when Ocon and Stroll do Alonso and Vettel over. Was obvious in 07 Hamilton was the man who had the speed when it was all said and done. Hamilton rightfully has the most championships on the grid. Thank god it was not Mr i beat old mean Vettel at the top of the sport. Ric and Leclerc ruined Vettel reputation. Infact ill remember Riccairdo way more than Seb and Seb has the 3rd most WC ever.

  12. Alpine, Alpha Tauri, Haas and Williams really no surprises.
    RedBull, Mercedes and McLaren also no surprises.
    Ferrari and Aston no surprises.
    Alfa Romeo no surprises.
    It looked like the fourth day of testing.
    But teammate wars were interesting.
    Tsunoda on free qualifying practice and Gasly doing long runs?
    Ocon and Alonso the same?
    Charles and Charlos?
    Perez way off. Is he the long runner for RBR?
    If this is a trend, tomorrow we should see:
    STR???… :-0

  13. Interesting..

  14. Amazing how close these times are from front to back. A two second gap would have got to 5th position back in the 80’s and 90’s. I think the spec Indycars are farther apart in times.

  15. Look like the Vettel slide continues if he doesn’t turn thing around by race three.

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