Pierre Gasly topped the first official timed session of the 2022 Formula 1 season for AlphaTauri, leading Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in first practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Frenchman used the soft tire with around 15 minutes remaining to edge the Ferrari driver to the top time by 0.364s.
“What a lap,” exclaimed his impressed engineer. “That was nice. We get into the mojo now.”
But Ferrari’s pace was more eye-catching, for neither Leclerc nor Sainz, who was less than half a tenth further back, used the soft-compound tire yet were both comfortably within half a second of the lead. Leclerc even had time to spin his car on the red-marked rubber that would carry him to his quickest time and still finish the session second overall.
Max Verstappen, fifth for Red Bull Racing, similarly eschewed completely the soft tire but was still quick enough for fifth at 0.549s off the pace.
George Russell led the way for Mercedes, the team’s new British recruit fourth in the order fractionally behind Sainz but hardly closer to a solution to the German marque’s car troubles.
Both he and Lewis Hamilton — who ended first practice seventh and 0.75s down, just behind Lance Stroll — endured porpoising at the end of the front straight in particular. It was less pronounced than it had been during testing, but it was nonetheless severe enough to rip some bodywork from Russell’s car as he sped towards the first turn early in the session.
Fernando Alonso was eighth in a mixed first session for Alpine. Teammate Esteban Ocon, who was 12th in the order, had early troubles with his bodywork when just 10 minutes into the session his right sidepod tore itself to shreds while he powered down the pit straight, causing a 10-minute red flag. The Frenchman had to switch to an older specification of sidepod, with spares in short supply so early in the season.
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Yuki Tsunoda was ninth for AlphaTauri ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull Racing car and 2022’s sole rookie, Zhou Guanyu.
Nicholas Latifi was 13th for Williams ahead of a most commendable performance by Nico Hulkenberg, who’s substituting the COVID-positive Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin this weekend. Although he is the team’s designated reserve driver, the German hadn’t sampled the all-new cars before practice, having got the call only a day earlier. His day comprised 23 laps of preparation for a race distance, with the team prioritizing race pace over a quick qualifying time.
Alex Albon was 15th ahead of McLaren pair Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, who were trying new brake ducts after suffering overheating issues during testing here last week.
New Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen were 18th and 19th and effectively last, with only Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas behind them in 20th, albeit without a competitive time.
Bottas, whose preseason program was heavily disrupted by unreliability, reported engine misfiring on his installation lap at the start of the hour, which the team spent the next 50 minutes repairing. He re-emerged with 10 minutes left on the clock, but the Finn again reported issues and returned dejectedly to the pits, ending his afternoon with two incomplete laps to his name.