Bahrain Grand Prix – Pierre Gasly saw AlphaTauri to the top of the timesheets ahead of Ferrari in the first practice session of the year.
There was no lull to the start of the 2022 Formula One World Championship as the vast majority of cars were out on track just as soon as the first practice session started. The McLaren drivers, some of the few out on soft tyres, were the early leaders on the timesheets. Daniel Ricciardo, the first into the 1:36s, quickly had a few tenths shaved off his benchmark time by Lando Norris with a 1:36.584.
Click here for the session times.
The only other car out on soft tyres didn’t have as ideal a start to their year as Esteban Ocon’s Alpine lost one of its sidepods, a upgraded version getting its first run on track, in a shower of debris as the Frenchman drove along the start/finish straight. That saw the first red flag of the year make an appearance after less than ten minutes to allow the track to be cleared.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Esteban Ocon loses a big chunk of sidepod 🤯
The debris litters the start-finish straight, so the session is paused as clean-up begins#BahrainGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/ZHWKqIIZzr
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 18, 2022
Twelve minutes later the track was back to green and all cars, aside from Ocon and Valtteri Bottas, were back circulating. Bottas had been out at the start of the session but returned to the Alfa Romeo garage after reporting the car was misfiring, while Alpine were returning the older specification sidepods to Ocon’s car.
The first new quick lap following the red flag was from the other Alpine, with Fernando Alonso briefly taking the top spot before Max Verstappen broke the soft tyre domination and put in a 1:34.783 on the mediums.
Ocon wasn’t the only one to lose some parts, George Russell lost a piece of his diffuser a few minutes after reporting back to Mercedes that the “car feels very affected by the wind.” The British driver spent a bit of time in the garage after that but with just over fifteen minutes on the clock, he went top of the times with a 1:34.629 on the softs.
Heading into the final ten minutes of the session it was Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri with the benchmark, a 1:34.193 on softs, the Frenchman’s engineer very enthused by the performance on the radio saying “What a lap! That was nice. Getting into the mojo now.”
Gasly’s time lasted for the remainder of the session with the two Ferrari’s his closest rivals but still more than three tenths behind. Russell’s was P4, 0.436 off, while Verstappen was P5.
Lance Stroll was P6 with a 1:34.814 for Aston Martin, a tenth ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in P7. Alonso was the faster of the Alpines in P8, 0.807 seconds slower than Gasly while Yuki Tsunoda slotted into P9 in the second AlphaTauri. The top ten was rounded out by Sergio Perez’ Red Bull with a 1:35.050.
After being called out of bed yesterday to replace Sebastian Vettel for the weekend, Nico Hulkenberg had his first taste of the 2022 edition of Formula 1 car and only ended a second behind his teammate.
With two days of testing under his belt, Kevin Magnussen ended his first session back in F1 in P19, just over two and a half tenths off teammate Mick Schumacher’s 1:36.536.
It was not a great start to Bottas’ season as after three misfire issues at the start he only managed to do another install lap later in the session before returning to the garage and failing to set a lap time.