Bahrain GP: Max Verstappen and Ferrari impress in first practice sessions of new season

Friday practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix was always going to be interesting given it was the first of the year, and the first of the new Formula 1 era, and it did not disappoint.

The 23-race calendar kicks off this weekend at the Sakhir circuit, and all 20 drivers are hoping to get their respective campaigns off to a flyer, though Nico Hulkenberg is only standing in this weekend for the covid-positive Sebastian Vettel.

Practice, then, is important, especially with the drivers getting to grips with their new cars and it was Pierre Gasly who went fastest in FP1 in the AlphaTauri.

The Frenchman set a time of 1:34.193, three tenths ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, with the Scuderia again looking strong – Carlos Sainz in the other Prancing Horse was third.

Behind them, George Russell was fourth in the Mercedes whilst Max Verstappen rounded out the top five.

FP2, meanwhile, saw Ferrari impress again – following on from their strong winter testing in Barcelona and, of course, Bahrain, with them tucking in just behind Max Verstappen who went fastest.

FP2, ran at the same time as Saturday’s qualifying, is often seen as the most indicative practice session for quali and that will please the reigning champ, though Charles Leclerc in second was only eight-hundredths of a second off of him in second, with Sainz again in third.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 18: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving (16) the Ferrari F1-75 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 18, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Russell was once again fourth with Fernando Alonso in fifth, whilst Lewis Hamilton could only post the ninth quickest time thanks to more problems with porpoising and a brake complaint.

FP3 takes place tomorrow, then, before qualifying gets underway at 3pm UK time on Saturday afternoon.

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