F1 2021 Pre-season testing FINALLY got underway! The Formula 1 world had been waiting for this day ever since the end of the 2020 season. It’s been 89 days since we’ve last seen those beautiful Formula 1 cars out on track. During testing, we were all loving the familiar sights of F1 cars powering down the straights and dashing around the corners. And millions of Formula 1 fans were all itching for their burning questions to be answered during the 3 days of pre-season testing.
Will Red Bull be able to take the fight to Mercedes? Can Ferrari achieve the resurgence they were hoping for? Who will come out top of the midfield this year? Would the regulation changes significantly slow the cars down? While these questions usually don’t get completely answered during testing, these 3 days were surely not going to disappoint. And Day 1 certainly didn’t continue reading to learn more about this sandstorm-hit day of testing!
Day 1 of testing is always a day full of firsts. It’s the opportunity for the teams and drivers to set a good first impression for the year. And of course, we fans can truly admire and cherish Formula 1 once again. However, Day 1 of 2021 Pre-season testing was EVEN MORE action-packed than expected.
On each day of testing, there are 2 four-hour sessions; one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. IIn each session, the teams can only send one car out onto the track. In today’s morning session, the initial laps were slow, because the drivers were still getting to grips with their cars. Also, the track had a considerable lack of rubber, which means that there wasn’t enough grip on the track for the drivers to achieve competitive lap times. Since testing is all about data, the teams had applied flow-vis paint or fixed an aero rig on their cars at least once. These featured mostly during the morning session.
Flow-visualization paint allows the teams to analyze how the air flows through the car by observing how the paint is on the car after the car has completed runs around the track. An aero rig, or aero rakes, have sensors all over them that sense how the air flows through the car. This data is all very useful for teams, especially during testing, and especially because of the new aero regulations this year. Aero rakes on Max Verstappen’s car in the picture above.
The morning session also saw some prototype tires, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel testing them, while Lance Stroll tested them in the evening. However, the fastest time of the morning session was set on the hards. Daniel Ricciardo manoeuvred his McLaren to P1 on the timing sheet for the morning session. He achieved a 1:32.203, and at the end of the day, after the afternoon session, Ricciardo finished 7th.
The most shocking takeaway from the morning session was Mercedes’ problems. Valterri Bottas went out of the garage to put in some laps, but a gear shift problem arose. He returned to the pits, and his car stayed in the garage for more than 3 hours. Mercedes spent a lot of time replacing Bottas’s gearbox, and they even put up screens to hide the garage. This indicates that the car had a serious problem because that’s the only time when teams can use screens.
By the end of the morning session, Valterri Bottas had barely managed to do anything track. He only set 6 lap times, and those were with aero rakes on the rear end of his car. Bottas only managed a 1:36.850, which was 6 seconds slower than the fastest lap of the day. Overall, it was disappointing for Mercedes, and they were hoping that Lewis Hamilton would be able to recover as much as possible for Mercedes.
The morning session saw a Red Flag come out towards the end of the session because Charles Leclerc stopped on track at Turn 4. The session ended a little late because of the Red Flag, which meant the hour-long break became less than an hour before the afternoon session began.
Unfortunately, it took less than an hour for the dreaded sandstorm to truly arrive. As you can see in the image above there was a layer of sand and dust settled on the track. The skies were dark, the winds were fast and the grip levels were low, making it even harder for drivers to push and gather accurate data. This sandstorm resulted in slower lap times for the majority of the afternoon session – until the temperatures started to drop.
The cooler conditions reduced tire degradation and increased the grip on the track, allowing a late surge in speed. The evening/afternoon runners bested the morning runners BY FAR, with the Top 6 times being set in the evening. Max Verstappen ended up setting the fastest time of Day 1, with a 1:30.674. Verstappen set that time on the mediums tires. He also knocked in a total of 138 laps today, so he spent the most time out on track out of any of the drivers.
Esteban Ocon also knocked in a massive 129 laps today, and he managed to finish 3rd in the timings. Despite running on the soft tires, he only managed a 1:31.146. In the morning session, he complained of instability on the rear end. However, after the evening session, he confirmed that things were going good for Alpine so far.
Verstappen was a good 2 tenths of a second clear of Lando Norris in 2nd place, showing promising pace from Red Bull. On top of the raw numbers, Verstappen was looking comfortably quick in his RB16B. The reigning World Champions, however, still struggled for pace in the afternoon. Lewis Hamilton only managed to put in a total of 42 laps, all on the hard tires. His fastest lap was 1:32.912, which was more than 2 seconds slower than Verstappen’s time.
Sure, Verstappen was on the mediums, but the hards aren’t THAT much slower than the mediums. Besides, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunode both managed to beat Hamilton’s time, and they were on the hard tires too. This marked a dismal day for Mercedes, and hopefully, things can get better for them tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Fernando Alonso, Nicholas Latifi and George Russel will have their very first outing of the F1 2021 Pre-season Testing. Watch pre-season testing live on F1 TV Pro! Sky Sports F1 is broadcasting the sessions live as well!