AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly topped the first practice in Bahrain Grand Prix, as the 2022 Formula 1 season featuring revolutionary new cars got underway, here on Friday.
However, reigning world champion Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, not taking a risk during the practice, began his title defence with the fifth-quickest time. George Russell was the leading Mercedes in fourth, 0.4s off the pace but a quarter of a second quicker than teammate and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (P7).
Gasly used the soft tyres to pump in 1m 34.193s, 0.364s clear of the medium-shod Charles Leclerc, who had a 360-degree spin when on the medium tyres before recovering, with Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz third.
Lance Stroll slotted into sixth for Aston Martin, with teammate Nico Hulkenberg — who is standing in for Sebastian Vettel after his compatriot tested positive for Covid-19 — a second off in 14th.
Fernando Alonso was eighth ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez closing out the top 10. Zhou Guanyu began his rookie year on a high note with the 11th-quickest time, after his first run on the red-walled soft compound tyres.
McLaren =- who had a front brake duct upgrade after they encountered so many problems in testing =- had a very low-key session with Lando Norris 16th and Daniel Ricciardo, who has recovered from Covid-19, 17th.
Mick Schumacher headed Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen =- who had a late call to replace Nikita Mazepin this season — in 18th, three-tenths separating the duo.
Valtteri Bottas had a difficult session, the Alfa Romeo failing to register a time. He retreated to the pits after reporting a misfire on his initial installation lap, and while he came out once more, he headed straight back to the garage again.