By Robert Haile
That’s it, on March 26 the racing will start and just two days later we’ll see who’s testing pace was just for show.
From sandstorms to mechanical failures and comebacks Bahrain had it all and more with questions answered and more asked.
Who will come out on top Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull? Who will be fighting at the bottom? Which drivers will be on the move for 2022?
Find out below how the drivers and teams did over the three days of testing.
Lewis Hamilton – 1:30.025 (Sunday)
Valtteri Bottas – 1:30.289 (Saturday)
Its has been a difficult weekend for the team with issues on the first day for Bottas and second for Hamilton, it will come down to the development of the car during the season to how strong a defence of their titles will be.
Bottas said: “I absolutely believe that the car and team has the potential to fight for the title. I don’t think the package is quite there yet in terms of performance but I have no doubt it will be. I feel like I’ve had enough time in the car, performing short runs and long runs, and I really feel comfortable and confident.
“From my side I’m ready and as a team, we will be ready.”
While Hamilton said: “It’s probably the only year I would have asked for more days though, because we’ve got lots of work to do. We’ve never felt in the past that we were quicker than everyone else after testing because you never know what people are doing with the fuel and set-ups.
“We always just focus on understanding our car the best way we can so if I’m honest, I feel the same this year. We won’t know until we get to qualifying in two weeks’ time exactly where we stand.”
Charles Leclerc – 1:30.486 (Sunday)
Carlos Sainz – 1:29.611 (Sunday)
It is never easy to debut for a new team, let alone one of the biggest if not the biggest in the sport but Sainz performed. While we will have to wait to see if it can be replicated throughout the season Ferrari could be challenging at the top after last seasons performance.
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal said: “These were three very busy days of testing. One of our priorities was to make the most of the short time available to gain an understanding of the behaviour of the SF21 and we succeeded in doing that.
“I feel we have improved in many areas compared to last season. It’s hard to say where we are compared to our opponents, because this test was even harder than usual to interpret. I was particularly pleased with the way Charles and Carlos worked with the team and the good relationship between the two of them, which has helped Sainz fit in with his new team very quickly.
“For our part, we have to carefully analyse all the data to be as well prepared as possible for the start of the championship. There’s a lot to do, but we all really want to do well.”
Max Verstappen – 1:28.960 (Sunday)
Sergio Perez – 1:30.187 (Sunday)
Verstappen has shown that Red Bull have the pace in testing topping the fastest lap table on Friday and Sunday. Another driver making his debut for one of the big teams, Perez showed he can handle the car but was almost two seconds slower than his team mate.
Max Verstappen said: “I think we can say it has been a good weekend but of course that doesn’t give you any guarantees and all teams are doing different programmes at testing. We always look into what we can improve and for sure there are still things we want to work on but I think all teams will have that.
“We’ll find out for sure in a couple of weeks in Q3 [qualifying 3] where we really are but in general I would say the car feels good and I’m looking forward to going racing.”
Sergio Perez said: “It’s crazy to think that pre-season has already finished, it feels like it only just started. There’s a very limited amount of running and testing but we managed to work through a lot of set-up options and are improving every time we get into the car. I’m very excited about the season and I think we’ve got a good car underneath us but I still have a lot to learn in the car to get the maximum out of it.
“The Team is doing a fantastic job. It doesn’t really matter where we start in Bahrain, it matters where we finish in Abu Dhabi. Now we just want to look forward to the race weekend. We’re going to take it step by step and be patient in the beginning and then things will come to us.”
Pierre Gasly – 1:30.413 (Saturday)
Yuki Tsunoda – 1:29.053 (Sunday)
One of the surprise packages of the three days testing as rookie Tsunoda set the final day alight as he set one of the fastest times beating most of the usual competitors. Could AlphaTauri but challenging this season?
Yuki Tsunoda said: “Jumping out of the car in P2 [position 2] today is a great feeling – of course you can’t get too ahead of yourself, as it’s only testing, but it’s great to finish the three days on a high. I’ve learnt so much over the last few days and collected crucial data for the team that we’ll now go back and analyse ahead of the first race.
“I think for me it’s great that we’re returning here so soon for the start of the season as I’ve managed to complete a lot of running here now and understand the track well. We’ve had a few small teething problems but that’s exactly what you’d expect from testing – we’re here to work everything out so we have the best possible package available to us come race day. I’ll continue working hard over the next few weeks and I’m excited for it to start.”
Pierre Gasly said: “Now that the three days of testing are over, I can’t wait to start racing, we’ve managed to complete our full testing schedule and have a good understanding of everything. Preparing for the race, we know the car’s strengths and we know where we can still make some improvements. I feel confident in the car and I think we’re in a much better place than we were this time last year.
“I really hope we can be in the fight this season and get some good points. Honda have also done a great job with the Power Unit and so far, we’re really happy with it – it’s a strong step forward, compared to last year, and the reliability has been perfect all three days, which is really positive. I’m excited for us to get to qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix because I think that’s when we’ll really see what everyone can do.”
Esteban Ocon – 1:31.310 (Sunday)
Ferando Alonso – 1:30.318 (Sunday)
The new team on the track or not so new as Renault rebranded, have brought in a familiar face as two time Drivers Champion in Alonso, who returns to the circuit after leaving in 2019 to partner Ocon. They have both shown that they can be potentially competitive with the car but it will come down to how it develops during the season.
Alonso speaking on Saturday said: We completed a lot of laps today and followed the programme that was planned so that is good, but we need to sit down now and analyse everything. The car did feel good today, but I think we still need to understand the characteristics of the new aero package a bit better.
“We ran with the harder compounds today and we have more running to do tomorrow, so between myself and Esteban we will aim to collect even more data and fine tune the overall package.”
Mick Schumacher – 1:32.053 (Sunday)
Nikita Mazepin – 1:31.531 (Sunday)
Two rookie drivers for the American team leave them as an unknown quantity. In Schumacher they have a driver Ferrari think very highly of and as son of the legendary Michael Schumacher one that everyone will be keeping an eye on. In Mazepin they have a fiery Russian who will be up for the fight.
Schumacher said: “Obviously, it was a bit sad that this was the last day of testing before driving here on the grand prix weekend. Nevertheless, we have 23 races coming up this season, which is great.Day one was obviously a bit of shame as we lost opportunities for running but we’ve caught up and we got some pit stops in yesterday too.
“I’ve been able to experience day and night driving here, which was amazing. I’m very impatient to get going with the season now and I’m very much looking forward to it. It can’t come soon enough. I feel prepared and I’m very ready.”
Mazepin said: “The conditions were very nice out there today, certainly in comparison to Friday’s afternoon session – when the conditions weren’t good for getting the performance out of the car. That said, for a rookie, it was a great learning experience to see how the car behaves with less grip.
“Testing’s been fun – and a very good learning curve. We started with very difficult conditions on day one, then we’ve progressed towards a more grippy track which means more opportunities to attract a lap time. The year is going to be long, but I think we’ve got the most out of these three days and the team’s done a great job.”
Kimi Räikkönen – 1:29.766 (Sunday)
Antonio Giovinazzi – 1:30.760 (Saturday)
A very competitive time from one of the oldest drivers on the track posting a time a full second faster than his team mate. Räikkönen has shown that he still has the passion to push the rest of the field and potentially a car that can put him near the front. Giovinazzi will be looking to match him and hope to go faster.
Kimi Räikkönen said: “It was a positive day from a work point of view. We got all we came here for and now we just have to see where we are when we’re back here racing in two weeks. Times in testing don’t mean anything and, right now, we don’t know how all the other teams are performing.
“But we know how our car does, and feeling wise, it is better than last year. I guess we are faster than at our best at the end of 2020, but whether that translate into a better performance in the races, that we will have to see.”
George Russell – 1:30.117 (Sunday)
Nicholas Latifi – 1:31.672 (Saturday)
Roy Nissany – 1:34.789 (Friday)
After finishing the 2020 season bottom of the pile a team with Williams history will be looking to move up the table and with two young drivers in Russell and Latifi they have the potential to start to recover.
George Russell said: “It was a very productive day and we put a lot of laps on the board, 158 in the end. The team did a great job over these three days, we have had no reliability issues, and everything ran smoothly. Ultimately performance is what we are here for and I think we have a lot to analyse.
“Some of our competitors do seem very quick, but equally I think the conditions did not always favour us. We have lots to analyse but overall, it has been a positive test for the team.
Lance Stroll – 1:30.460 (Saturday)
Sebastian Vettel – 1:33.742 (Friday)
Returning to F1 this season as a team and safety car Aston Martin had a mixed testing in Bahrain as former drivers champion Vettel struggled but is in a positive mood with the new team while Stroll showed what the car could possibly do.
Stroll said: “I’m very happy with today’s work. We ran to our programme and collected lots of useful data by doing race simulations and long runs. We completed our job list for the day, which is a really good way to end the test after we lost out on a bit of running yesterday.
“We’ve got plenty of data to go over now to improve our understanding of the car, so that’s a nice position to be in – especially considering there were only three days of testing this year. I’m looking forward to starting the season here in Bahrain. We can go away now and make more improvements before we come back for the race.”
Vettel said: “We got plenty of laps on the board today, despite an early finish [caused by a loss of boost pressure]. Lance did a good amount of laps this morning too, so there’s a lot of data for us to work with. My running today was very useful and the track conditions were better, so that was a big help in understanding this car.
“This test has definitely helped me learn where I can improve as a driver with the car and where the team can improve the AMR21 too. It’s been a good learning curve and I’m excited to keep progressing with the car. I’m looking forward to racing here in Bahrain in two weeks.”
Lando Norris – 1.30.586 (Sunday)
Daniel Ricciardo – 1:30.144 (Sunday)
Australian Ricciardo is another driver who has moved teams for 2021 joining the second oldest active and second most successful team on the grid. McLaren have not won either the drivers championship since 2008 or constructors since 1998. In Ricciardo and Norris they should be looking to hold onto a top three finish in the constructors championship .
Ricciardo said “So that wraps up the test. I’m really happy to have got it done reliably with no real issues or concerns, it’s been a really smooth three days. I’m really thankful to the team, both here at the track and back at the factory, for putting together a good car for these days at the test. They’ve really made me feel at home, so I’m feeling comfortable and I can’t wait to come back here and get on track for the Bahrain Grand Prix.”
Norris said: “Our last day in the car was good. We struggled with a few things which is, in a way, bad and good. You never want to run into issues, but it’s good we’ve learned about the car and have time to address it before we come back for the race. So, positives and negatives, but all in all it’s a positive, and this is exactly what we’re here to do during the test.
“It’s nice to be back at a track and I feel like I’m in a good place going into the race in a couple of weeks, so I’m excited to come back. A big thanks to the guys here at track and back in the factory, as well as the team at Mercedes HPP, for their hard work. It’s been a good few days of pre-season testing.”