The 2023 season has officially begun, and the first two Bahrain Grand Prix free practice sessions have been completed. Here's how the teams and drivers lined up on the first action packed Friday of the season.
There's no hiding it: Aston Martin is quick. How quick, is yet to be revealed, but you won't have to wait long, Sunday is less than 48 hours away. For now, Fernando Alonso managed to find himself amongst the top three drivers of both FP1 and FP2 at the Bahrain International Circuit, keeping the Aston Martin hypetrain up and running.
Everybody knows that Friday practice might be crucial, but sometimes not 100% representative of one's pace. We'll have to wait until tomorrow's FP3, to be able to create a more clear image of where things stand.
Let's talk about FP1
The day started easy, no interruptions, no major incidents on track, apart from a few offs and spins, and the drivers had their first contact with the cars on the track, apart from pre-season testing of course. Only half of the pilots completed their fast laps on the soft compound, with many others selecting the medium tyre for their quick runs.
Sergio Perez climbed to the top of the timesheet in FP1, followed by Fernando Alonso in P2 and Max Verstappen in P3. Despite pace not being quite there overall for McLaren, Lando Norris managed to find himself up to P4, followed by Charles Leclerc in P5, who completed his lap on the medium tyre.
Lance Stroll made the perfect comeback to P6, proving that he can actually drive the AMR23 with no problem, despite having injured his wrists in a bicycle accident only a few days ago. Kevin Magnussen in P7, followed by the Alfa Romeo pair, with Zhou Guanyu leading Valtteri Bottas, in P8 and P9, respectively. Lewis Hamilton rounded up the top 10, but bare in mind that his lap was done on the medium compound.
Full FP1 Classification:
Alonso shocks Red Bull -and everybody else-
"It's really not that bad, it just needs a little... shape up! To the salon," said Lawrence Stroll after the end of the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and went back to Silverstone to start working on, what looks it's gonna be, his masterpiece. Fernando Alonso proved what everybody has been talking about since testing: Aston Martin have created a rocket ship of a car, and pure pace cannot be hidden.
The Spaniard managed to fly past both Red Bulls, snatching that P1 to end his Friday on a high. Max Verstappen followed close enough to take P2 on the final practice session of the day, as his teammate, Sergio Perez, finished in P3.
Charles Leclerc placed his SF-23 on the fourth place of the timing board, as Nico Hulkenberg climbed up to P5, followed by Lance Stroll in P6, who seemed to be somewhat struggling with his injury. His engineer asked him to change his approach at T1, so he can have a better exit at T2, and the Canadian driver replied: "I can't with my hand." Stroll's onboard showed that he was pushing the steering wheel at some point, instead of actually steering it.
Other on board shots show him needing help getting out of the car, not being able to pull his bodyweight out of the car. Having two broken wrists, and still managing to end up in P6, in a car that you've never driven before (bear in mind he missed all 3 days of pre-season testing), is definitely an impressive achievement.
Moving on, Pierre Gasly ended up in P7, with the Frenchman's lap times suggesting that Alpine might've been hiding their true pace through Winter testing, but it's all to play for on Sunday afternoon. Completing the top 10, Lewis Hamilton in P8, followed by Lando Norris in P9 and Zhou Guanyu in P10.
Full FP2 Classification:
The rest of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend's schedule:
Saturday March 4th:
Practice 3 (FP3): 11:30 - 12:30
Qualifying: 15:00 - 16:00
Sunday March 5th:
Race Start: 15:00