Mercedes make F1 testing progress despite Lewis Hamilton spin

Hamilton turned out that morning

Valtteri Bottas was the fastest when Mercedes made progress on day two of testing despite a shot by Lewis Hamilton.

The seven-time world champion lost control at turn 13 on Bahrain’s Sakhir track while running and landed in the gravel.

But Mercedes had a much better day than Friday when they struggled with performance and reliability.

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly finished second and McLaren’s Lando Norris third.

Lance Stroll was fourth fastest in the Aston Martin, while his team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered from transmission problems in the morning and only drove seven laps, which ended the day the slowest.

The key lap times in pre-season tests are known to be unreliable as indicators of real competitiveness as it is impossible to know the specs that the teams are driving their cars in.

Fuel quantities and engine modes can greatly improve performance.

Red Bull continued the strong impression they made on the first day of the race and newcomer Sergio Perez rode consistently and quickly on the C2 compound tire, one of the toughest on the market.

An unusual mistake by Hamilton

It is indeed a rare sight for Hamilton to make a driving mistake anytime, let alone testing, when nothing is at stake. But that’s exactly what happened in Sakhir on Saturday morning.

Mercedes still struggled with balance and inconsistency in vehicle behavior. This and a strong gusty tail wind meant that Hamilton lost the stern on the penultimate corner of the Sakhir route.

The car was stranded in the gravel but it was salvaged by marshals and Hamilton was able to continue his run after a short break to clean the car.

Hamilton set a time at the end of his run in the morning that put him 15th as others improved in the cooler conditions after the sun went down at the end of the day and the cars ran under lights like the season’s inaugural race in two weeks.

Hamilton said the team is still trying to understand the best way to drive the car after changing the rules that cut away some of the rear floor to reduce downforce.

Hamilton said, “It’s very gusty, as I found out at Turn 13. The rear doesn’t feel too good with this new regulation change, but we’re trying to find the sweet spot.

“It’s day two of the tests so we’re just focusing on getting our jobs done and understanding the car so there’s nothing to worry about just yet.”

Bottas took over in the afternoon and the team made further progress with the behavior of the car and he jumped on the timesheets as he ran through the different types of tires late in the day.

How was Alonso getting on?

Fernando Alonso had his first day of running in his new Alpinauto after returning to F1 after two years and covered 128 laps – more than two racetracks.

The 39-year-old two-time champion stuck to his word that despite a broken upper jaw in a bicycle accident four weeks ago, he would have no problems with his fitness.

The Spaniard was second fastest in the morning behind McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, but slipped down as Alpine focused on long runs with hard tires that afternoon.

Still, it was an encouraging start to the season for the Anglo-French team, formerly known as Renault, and also for McLaren, who drove strong and reliably with both drivers for two days.

The Alpine car featured a bulbous engine cover, which, according to Marcin Budkowski, Alpine’s managing director, was due to the team placing coolers over the engine rather than in the car’s side cases for aerodynamic benefits.

“We found that removing the sidepods is a positive direction, which is nothing new,” said Budkowski. “That’s why we repackaged some of the bulky things in the car, relocated them and put them behind the air intake.”

“So, yes, it gives the car a pretty spectacular, bulky shape, but we’ve found it to work for us. Yes, there is compromise on center of gravity, but usually aero performance wins over weight and center of gravity.”

The last day of testing is on Sunday.

Fastest times, pre-season testing 2021, Sakhir, Bahrain

1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1: 30.289 *****

2 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpha Tauri 1: 30.413 *****

3 Lando Norris (GB) McLaren 1: 30.586 ****

4 Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1: 30.693 ***

5 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo 1: 30.760 *****

6 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1: 30.903 ****

7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1: 31.682 **

8 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1: 32.215 **

9 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1: 32.339 ***

10 Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1: 32.541 *****

11 Yuki Tsotaka (Jpn) Alpha Tauri 1: 32,684 ****

12 Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas 1: 32.883 ****

11 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Ferrari 1: 33.072 ***

12 Nikita Mazepin (Rus) Haas 1: 33.101 ****

13 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 1: 33.399 **

16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1: 38.849 ***

Key: ** = C2 (hard) tire; *** = C3 (medium) tire; **** = C4 (soft) tire; ***** = C5 (super soft) tire


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