Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Flying Verstappen makes it three-in-a-row in Bahrain practice

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix third practice

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen continued his perfect start to the Formula 1 season by completing a hat-trick of practice sessions at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the fastest driver.

With track temperatures almost hitting 50C in the afternoon sun, teams were reluctant to go on track early on. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas who was the first to attempt a flying lap.

He immediately skated through the turn one run-off area as he encountered stiff winds, and at turn four where he repeated his Friday error of repeatedly violating the track limits at the exit of the corner.

With Bottas’s lap time deleted Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr was fastest early on, on the hard compound tyre. Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton went out on the softs and he unsurprisingly beat Sainz’s benchmark when he went on a flyer, but Red Bull sent out their drivers on the hards too, and Max Verstappen went faster than Hamilton’s Mercedes by a few tenths of a second.

Verstappen’s new team mate Sergio Perez also set a competitive pace on the hard tyre, but was still being outshone by the driver on the other side of the garage and AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, after he used soft tyres to go to the top.

Sainz set an eye-catching lap when he switched to the medium tyre. Alpine’s drivers did most of their running on the same compound as they focused on short runs.

Mercedes then raised the stakes by sending both cars out on softs for a qualifying simulation which resulted in their drivers being the first of the day to break into the 1’31s.

That looked like it was enough to fill the top two spots until with seven minutes to go when Verstappen finally switched to the softs too. He produced a superb lap, cutting a massive 0.739 seconds off Hamilton’s time, setting a 1’30.577s that was ominously also 1.331s faster than team mate Perez in fifth.

Gasly also got among the Mercedes on the soft tyre, setting a 1’31.583 to go third fastest between Hamilton and Bottas, and underline Honda’s off-season progress.

Sainz was sixth using his lap set on the mediums, while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 all on softs. Charles Leclerc was 11th after going off at turn two in his Ferrari, without hitting anything.

Aston Martin had a difficult session with Sebastian Vettel off the pace and with pieces flying off his car, while the order was propped up by Williams’ Nicholas Latifi despite setting most of his laps on fresh rubber. He finished behind the two Haas drivers, Nikita Mazepin having spun off in the quick corners through the middle of the lap earlier in the session.

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix third practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
133Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’30.57711
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.3160.73914
310Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’31.5831.00613
477Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.8551.27816
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’31.9081.33111
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.1081.53116
77Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’32.2241.64715
831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’32.4231.84611
918Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’32.4311.85413
103Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.4771.90012
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1’32.4821.90517
1299Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’32.5001.92311
1322Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’32.7092.13215
145Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’32.7552.17815
1514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’32.8202.24315
164Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.8602.28310
1763George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’33.3232.74614
1847Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’33.4222.84514
199Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’33.6223.04514
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’33.9593.38216

Third practice visual gaps

Max Verstappen – 1’30.577

+0.739 Lewis Hamilton – 1’31.316

+1.006 Pierre Gasly – 1’31.583

+1.278 Valtteri Bottas – 1’31.855

+1.331 Sergio Perez – 1’31.908

+1.531 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’32.108

+1.647 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’32.224

+1.846 Esteban Ocon – 1’32.423

+1.854 Lance Stroll – 1’32.431

+1.900 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’32.477

+1.905 Charles Leclerc – 1’32.482

+1.923 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’32.500

+2.132 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’32.709

+2.178 Sebastian Vettel – 1’32.755

+2.243 Fernando Alonso – 1’32.820

+2.283 Lando Norris – 1’32.860

+2.746 George Russell – 1’33.323

+2.845 Mick Schumacher – 1’33.422

+3.045 Nikita Mazepin – 1’33.622

+3.382 Nicholas Latifi – 1’33.959

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

PosDriverCarFP1FP2FP3Fri/Sat diffTotal laps
1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’31.3941’30.8471’30.577-0.2746
2Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’31.8971’30.9421’32.860+1.91855
3Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.9211’31.0821’31.316+0.23453
4Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.3661’31.1271’32.108+0.98157
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.6921’31.2181’31.855+0.63756
6Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.4341’31.2301’32.477+1.24754
7Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’33.3291’31.2941’32.709+1.41559
8Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’33.2331’31.3931’32.431+1.03857
9Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’32.1951’31.4831’31.583+0.163
10Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’32.0711’31.5031’31.908+0.40549
11Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’33.5281’31.6011’32.423+0.82255
12Charles LeclercFerrari1’31.9931’31.6121’32.482+0.8757
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’32.7861’31.7401’32.500+0.7654
14Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’33.1571’31.7691’32.755+0.98662
15Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’33.8721’31.7701’32.820+1.0557
16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.1341’31.8621’32.224+0.36248
17George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’34.1271’32.3311’33.323+0.99264
18Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’34.5011’33.2971’33.422+0.12554
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’34.3401’33.4001’33.959+0.55966
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’34.9751’33.4491’33.622+0.17349

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Elliot 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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27 comments on “Flying Verstappen makes it three-in-a-row in Bahrain practice”

  1. And yet Q3 will end with the entirely familiar sight of Hamilton on top.

    1. The way the Red Bull/Verstappen looks versus how much more Hamilton had to do to get that time, I am not at all sure of that, even if Mercedes has more fuel by ~0.2s, and better power when it counts, it will at best be close I think.

    2. This didn’t age well

  2. I mean… it looks promising for a good fight, doesn’t it? I’m trying to keep expectations low but admittedly I’m hopeful. I’d really love to see Red Bull taking command as the frontrunners for a change, but I got this horrible suspicion the normal order will resume.

    Other than the front, there’s some interesting stories. Mainly curious at Alpine and Aston Martin – are they quite as bad as they look?

    1. Ditto, I don’t think it’s worth forming conclusions until we see what happens in Q3, as much as I’d love to see a competitive Red Bull this year.

  3. It would be rather amusing if the rule changes that have hindered Mercedes ‘dominance’ results in Red Bull/Verstappen dominating by an even greater margin.

    I think it’s quite clear now why they made the rule changes they did specifically focussing on the rear floor/diffuser. They surely would have known making those specific changes would be great for the high rake concept cars like Red Bull & would badly hurt the low rake cars such as Mercedes so I think it’s clear why they made those specific changes.

    These sorts of messing with rules to obviously try & hinder one teams advantage & benefit others has always been something that’s never sit well with me. Especially as it has seemed to become something done a more frequently over the past 20-30 years.

    1. I mean, during testing nobody had a clue if low or high rake would be an advantage and prior to testing everyone was convinced that low rake would benefit. If FIA wanted to give RB an advantage they knew something that nobody in the paddock knew.

      1. @hahostolze They were talking about it going against the low rake towards the end of last year & Sky went into there coverage of testing talking about how the rules were going to benefit the high rake concept & it was the same with some of the tech programs on F1TV.

      2. @hahostolze @roger-ayles The changes were supposed to affect both types of car (rake) through new regulations in different areas. However, it does seem the low-rake cars have been more heavily impacted. Bottas in particular was clearly finding it difficult to handle. In some ways, that’s cool, it makes driver skill more critical. I doubt Red Bull will stay 0.7 in front, possibly not even in qualifying in an hour’s time, certainly not over a season. But it’s supposedly what Mercedes want, real competition, so great. (Even if it is generated by regulations whose sole purpose was to slow the cars down.)

    2. I’d say that would be rather typical of F1 actually @roger-ayles! But I don’t expect anything the like. I think it will be close between Verstappen and Hamilton for pole. WHo knows, maybe Bottas hooks up a lap without going off too wide at turn 4 and getting that lap deleted and can be in the mix too.

      I would expect the Red Bulls to have a proper shot at winning the race, since the car looks more stable and hints are towards it’s greater race pace. I would think that Perez would be a solid backup then to keep at least 1 Mercedes off the podium.

      It also bodes well for a season, since we all know Mercedes ARE going to claw back some of the performance, while Perez will also grow into things at Red Bull during the next few races to keep the stakes up a bit.

      What you say is not completely true though @hahostolze. First of all, this was mentioned several times during testing when it seemed that the Mercedes cars were clearly more unstable than they had been in the last decade. But I had heard this as soon as the rule change came out already, it was quite predictable that it would have somewhat more effect on an aero concept like what the Mercedes has vs. the high rake approaches.

    3. @roger-ayles I find it rather amusing that you put dominance in quotes. Personally I was concerned that the changes would affect RBR negatively as they already had a rear end that was not planted last year and I thought taking away from downforce at the rear would give them a big headache. But they have also changed their rear suspension geometry from what I understand, and I don’t think Honda and their apparent improvements can be ignored either. I certainly thought at times in some races that Max didn’t need much more than just a little extra grunt for some higher top speeds on the straights last year, at some tracks anyway.

  4. Why do you all love Redbull so much? The team is full of toss bags such as Horner, Helmut and Verstappen.

    I hate the Mercedes dominance just like everybody else and I’m sick of it too but not to the extent that I’d rather Redbull win.

    Any other team other than them.

    1. Because the same team winning all the championships since 2014 does tire after a while. I mean, I’m a Hamilton supporter but to be honest I’d rather see Max win it this year in some respects. Agree about Horner though, I wouldnt trust him with a barge pole. @homerlovesbeer

    2. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      27th March 2021, 14:16

      >disliking everyone with a personality at Red Bull

      Seems like they only have 1 thing in common: YOU dislike them. Ever wonder that maybe it was you who is the biggest ‘toss bag’?

    3. @homerlovesbeer

      It’s a very professional team that has very stable results and that doesn’t seem to cheat, unlike a certain other team that many people love.

      I quite like Horner. He pretty consistently seems to do what is best for the team. There’s a reason why he has kept his job for 15 years. Yet it’s often pretty clear how he is really feeling, so it’s interesting to follow him.

      Helmut seems very analytical and undiplomatic, which is probably why he rarely interacts with the media. Basically, a lot like Niki Lauda, but without the humor. Niki was loved by many, so I think it’s a bit unfair to be so harsh on Helmut.

      I just see it as a very Germanic team, harsh, but fair.

    4. @homerlovesbeer In Max’s case, you just have to admire the skill with which he’s driving already this season, smooth, mistake free, assured. And I am looking forward to see how that might pan out in a real title pressure situation as the season progresses. Will those earlier career mistakes come back if winning a championship becomes a possibility? It’s just a far more interesting story than can Hamilton yet beat Bottas again? (Yes, obviously.)

  5. Expect a Verstappen pole position and win this weekend. Mercs got more work to do.

    1. I expect a pole, but either an engine failure or crash tomorrow. Bottas I think will win.

  6. Without looking FP3 at all. Verstappen is champion in the middle of the season.
    It would be a chance to the norm but lets hope it will be a tight fight

  7. That qualifying session and race is not one to be missed, we might just have that super season we’ve all been craving for. So excited!

  8. 1.3 seconds though. Not sure Perez would have been expecting that. If Perez struggles this year, it will at least help Albon’s credibility. I don’t really know what will happen of course, but Max is clearly a formidable force.

  9. No doubt Red Bull seem to have nailed this one- but a fundamental issue that seems to be getting overlooked, is if this is track specific. Mercedes have been beatable in Bahrain over the years, particularly when Vettel and Hamilton had their wars in 2017 and 2018. I’m also not dispelling Merc’s rear end issues but I am just saying- even with Max and Red Bull as favourites, this might not necessarily shape the story of the season. Can’t wait for more answers in qualy and the race.

  10. Alonso is incredibly slow. He doesn’t look competitive in all three practices. Although in his last attempt he was on par with Ocon, but then lost about 4 tenths in two corners in the third sector.

    Alpine also doesn’t look competitive.

    On SkySports, they were discussing the fact that it’s unclear what Alpine is doing and how fast they’re. But to me it’s clear that if a team is sandbagging and is 3-4 seconds down on the top teams… they are not sandbagging, they are just slow.

    Also, if Alonso doesn’t beat Ocon in the next 3-4 races, I don’t think he should continue racing in F1. And Alpine should immediately sign someone younger with reflexes. They should think about Hulk, who signed with Mercedes and Aston Martin as a third driver.

    1. Kind of harsh @Sviat given the huge gap between Verstappen and Perez, also new to his team, but with the benefit of racing in F1 the last couple of years. Or Gasly-Vettel for that matter.

    2. Oops, Stroll-Vettel.

  11. who knows.. maybe using the ‘next years engine’ this year will result in regular Honda blow ups.
    Looks interesting but I won’t allow myself to hope for a proper title fight just yet

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