What a journey it has been through the 3 days of F1 2021 pre-season testing. For the first time in Formula 1, teams had only 3 days to test their new and gather as much data as possible. For the first time in Formula 1, pre-season testing happened in Bahrain. 2021 Pre-season testing left us itching for the season to start. Based on the last 3 days, 2021 has so much potential for Formula 1. There are so many questions, so many speculations, all in anticipation of this season of Formula 1. But we’ll cover that in detail in another post. This post is a report all about Day 3 of F1 2021 Pre-season testing.
The final day is always the tensest day of testing, especially when you have had only 3 days of testing. So we saw the drivers pushing and putting in a huge amount of laps to gather data for their teams. The driver to set the least number of laps today was Sergio Perez, who set a total of 49 laps. That was, however, enough to top the morning session. 49 laps are much more than the lowest numbers from yesterday and the day before since none of the drivers had reliability issues today. However, what’s even more remarkable was the highest number of laps. Kimi Raikkonen set an unbeaten, unbelievable 165 laps today. The Iceman had the Alfa Romeo C41 all to himself today, and he DEFINITELY made use of the 8 hours of testing today.
Raikkonen placed 4th on the timing sheets after setting a 1:29.766 on the C5 tires. Close behind in the lap count was George Russell, who banged in a total of 157 laps today. He finished the session in P6, just 1.157 seconds off of Verstappen, who topped the tables. Max Verstappen, what a run he had today! The Dutchman was on fire, showing that he’s ready to race into the 2021 Formula 1 season with his head held high.
With just under 2 hours to go until the end of the day, Verstappen put in a stellar lap while testing the prototype tires. It was a lap time of1:29.942, and it was the first lap of 2021 testing to break the 1 minute 30 seconds barrier. Only Yuki Tsunoda, Carlos Sainz and Kimi Raikkonen managed to break that barrier after Verstappen. Then Verstappen changed onto the C4 (Soft) tires, which were even faster.
Verstappen’s fastest time in FP3 of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix was 1:28.355. This year in testing, on the C4 tires, he set a lap time of 1:28.960. This broke the 1:28 barrier and became the fastest lap of the entire 2021 winter testing. This time shower Verstappen and Red Bull’s 2021 pace is very close closer to their 2020 pace. This is a big thing because the 2021 cars are meant to be over a second slower than the 2020 cars. However, there are many variables that can affect the pace of a car and the lap time. It’s very much possible that these variables were not the same when Verstappen was setting these times. So it is better not to make too many assumptions because things might be different when we arrive at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Extremely close behind Verstappen was the roaring rookie of Yuki Tsunoda. On the C5 tires, he was just 0.093 seconds behind Verstappen. He was racing in the evening session, and he managed an astonishing 91 laps while battling with Raikkonen and Verstappen for the top of the timing sheet. In the end, Tsunoda was barely behind Verstappen in 2nd, marking a fabulous day for the Japanese driver. Tsunoda’s name was being circulated around social media since his pace was incredibly noticeable. Another driver who was performing very well was Carlos Sainz. He comfortably managed to grab P3 in the session, despite being on the C4 tires. Sainz and Raikkonen had an entertaining, yet completely unnecessary tussle after the end of the session. It could’ve resulted in some damage for both drivers.
Both Alpine and McLaren clocked in over 100 laps in total for the team and took up some good spots in the standings. Aston Martin was clearly focusing on long-distance and long-run testing rather than pace. Vettel and Stroll were 6 and 7 seconds off the pace respectively, although they did run on the Medium tires. Vettel’s pace disadvantage might’ve actually been a problem with the car, because he missed the last 90 minutes of the evening session, which was when he was driving. Haas managed more than 140 laps, which continued their trend from yesterday of putting in loads of laps and gathering a good amount of useful and important data.
Yes, I’ve saved this for the very end of this report. Mercedes’ 2021 testing disasterclass continued. Valterri Bottas, who was running on the C2 (Hard) tires, only managed P16, ahead of the Aston Martin drivers. His teammate Lewis Hamilton fared slightly better, after finishing in P4 on the C5 tires. Hamilton put in a 1:30.025. One of the most shocking moments of F1 2021 Pre-season testing was when Hamilton was trying to start a flying lap, and he spun. This is incredibly uncommon. You’re trying to start a fast lap, and then out of the final corner, you spin. This was a combination of 3 things. Cold tires, driver error, and an unstable car.
The cold tires, were, well, cold tires. Colder tires can mean that your tires have a lot less grip than tires at optimal temperature. The driver error is that Hamilton might’ve been pushing too hard. And instability is a characteristic of the W12 that we’ve seen quite a bit over that last couple of days of testing. We’ve seen Bottas and Hamilton having to make corrections and stop the car from spinning over the course of a lap. That’s highly unusual for a Mercedes car. Maybe this is sandbagging and Hamilton slightly prompted the spin. Maybe he allowed the tires to be a little colder on purpose. We just can’t tell yet whether the Mercedes W12 is genuinely having problems or not. We’ll only find out at the Bahrain GP, which is in less than 2 weeks time. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts!