Today was Day 2 of Formula 1 2021 Pre-season testing. Yesterday, we were excited to see the cars out on track for the first time. Today, we were even more excited to see the drivers bang in those lap times. We were incredibly excited to see if things would remain the same as yesterday, or whether things would change.
Today, we got a little bit more running from the reigning champions Mercedes, since Valterri Bottas finally got a chance to get a little bit more familiar with the W12. We also saw Fernando Alonso fully back in Formula 1 as he tested the Alpine A521. He had the whole day in the car, and he clocked in a total of 127 laps. Alonso broke his jaw in a cycling accident over a month ago, and that obviously hasn’t hampered his performance.
We saw Sergio Perez spend the whole racing in his new Red Bull car as well. He managed to get a total of 117 laps, but he only finished 8th in the standings. Antonio Giovinazzi clocked in a total of 124 laps, as he spent both sessions in his Alfa Romeo C41. And Nicholas Latifi also got a good taste of the Williams FW43B by putting a grand total of 132 laps, which was the most of any driver for Day 2. However, Haas grabbed the most laps as a team. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin clocked in a whopping 164 laps! That was much better running for Haas compared to yesterday.
In the morning session Daniel Ricciardo came out on top for the 2nd day in a row. He set a 1:32.215 on the C3 Medium tires, which was by far the fastest time set on the mediums. McLaren were looking very fast with both drivers, because Lando Norris spent quite a lot of time at the top of the tables. However, drivers like Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc decided to race on the C5 soft tires. Norris set his time on the C4 Soft tires, which are slower than the C5’s.
Although Giozinazzi and Leclerc couldn’t beat Norris, Bottas, Gasly and Stroll did. Bottas set a 1:30.289, which gave him the top spot. However, the lap barely secured 1st, because Gasly’s lap was just 0.124 seconds behind, and Stroll’s was just 0.171 seconds behind Bottas’s. This means that the Mercedes isn’t genuinely back on top, and it isn’t genuinely as dominant as it was last year. Also, Bottas set his time 20 minutes before the end of the session, when the grip levels were highest and the track conditions were the fastest. If Norris would’ve set a time on the C5 tires at that time, he would’ve gone much faster than Bottas.
Still, it’s a big improvement from yesterday. Bottas, who was meant to drive in the morning session, only set 6 lap times because a gearbox issue confined him to the garage for a long, long time. Also, many drivers were running qualifying simulations when they were setting their fastest lap times. It is possible that Bottas wasn’t one of them. In F1 testing, you never know whether drivers are pushing their hardest. You don’t know whether teams are putting heavy fuel loads to slow cars down. That’s why the first round of the season is arguably the most interesting because you want to see whether testing was accurate and genuine and whether the teams were sandbagging.
However, based on the morning session, it didn’t look like Mercedes were sandbagging this year. As Karun Chandhok mentioned, the Mercedes W12 looked as if it had no rear stability. Lewis Hamilton said that it was very gusty today, which he clearly found out when approaching Turn 13. He said that the rear end of his car “doesn’t feel particularly great”, which may be a problem for Mercedes. Hamilton couldn’t make it out of the gravel trap, which brought out a 15-minute Red Flag to remove the stricken car.
Another Red Flag came out when Sergio Perez’s engine cover flew off. Bits and pieces flew off his car while he came down the main straight, which was obviously going to bring out a Red Flag. Perez was in Latifi’s slipstream, but when he came back into the air resistance, his engine cover couldn’t handle it. The thin and surprisingly delicate bodywork flew off and exposed the Honda engine, a sight which you don’t normally see. However, Perez was back on track quite quickly, and he finished the day in P11. This is because he set his fastest time on the Hard tires. He probably would’ve been faster if he decided to push on the softs or mediums.
Despite running on the C5 tires, Charles Leclerc only managed P6, behind the likes of Giovinazzy, Norris, Stroll, Gasly and Bottas. Leclerc was running in the afternoon, and his teammate, Carlos Sainz, was racing in the morning. Sainz had a major spin, which wasn’t really a big problem. The Spaniard managed a total of 56 laps in the session, and finished P13. Ferrari didn’t exactly have the best day of testing, but it wasn’t really bad either.
Tomorrow will be even more exciting, as the teams gather the last bits of data that they can before the first race of the season in Bahrain. Expect to see the drivers putting in a lot of laps tomorrow! Watch Formula 1 2021 pre-season testing live on F1 TV Pro! Sky Sports F1 is broadcasting the sessions live as well!