The McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo set the pace in the opening test session of the 2021 Formula 1 world championship, with a best time of 1m32.203s.
Pre-season testing times are notoriously meaningless, especially so on the opening day, and the story was no different on Friday morning with the order on the timesheet significantly shaken up in comparison to a normal weekend.
Teams were working hard to ensure their cars were operating as planned, and so lap times are not a priority at this stage, although all eyes are on the number of laps completed.
The fastest three lap times were incredibly close, with Ricciardo topping the timesheet ahead of the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly and Red Bull of Max Verstappen in third.
AlphaTauri had an especially strong start to testing, with Gasly completing 61 laps, more than any other team.
The Alpine of Esteban Ocon was fourth fastest, over seven-tenths slower than the top three – proving how times are so unreliable – having completed 49 laps for the Enstone-based outfit.
Charles Leclerc was having a reasonable start to pre-season testing, going fifth fastest with 59 laps on the board, but he pulled over to the side of the track with just under 10 minutes remaining, bringing out the only red flag of the morning.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 12, 2021
The Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen spent the early part of the morning with the fastest lap, but ended up sixth fastest, although he won’t be overly happy with the handling of the car.
The C41 looked a handful for Raikkonen at various stages of the session, and the team will be looking to get on top of that issue quickly to ensure they aren’t stuck at the back of the grid this year.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel got off to a reasonable start with his new team, Aston Martin, but he stopped at the end of the pitlane with just under an hour and a half to go and did not return to the circuit until the final half an hour.
Despite that, the four-time world champion still completed 49 laps, gaining valuable data for the Silverstone-based squad.
Both Haas and Mercedes had a difficult start to their pre-season testing with Mick Schumacher and Valtteri Bottas missing out on a large chunk of the session.
Bottas completed one installation lap at the start of the test, but was then confined to the pits for the next three and a half hours after Mercedes had to change the W12’s gearbox as a result of a shifting issue.
He did get out on the circuit in the latter stages and managed to complete another five laps, but was slowest of all.
And the Hass also had a gearbox change as a result of a hydraulic issue, meaning Mick Schumacher was only able to complete 13 laps on his debut with the team.
The afternoon session gets back underway at 12 noon UK time.
|3||Max Verstappen||Mercedes||60||+0.042 (H)|
|6||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing||63||+1.117 (H)|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||51||+1.539|
|9||Mick Schumacher||Haas F1 Team||15||+3.924 (H)|
|10||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||6||+4.647 (H)|
All times set on medium tyres unless indicated