Russell fastest in first practice session with Mercedes - The Race
Formula 1

Russell fastest in first practice session with Mercedes

Dec 4 2020
By Valentin Khorounzhiy

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes Formula 1 stand-in George Russell topped the first practice session ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix on the Bahrain track’s ultra-short Outer layout.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr’s 56.631s set at the nine-minute mark was already believed to be the fastest official grand prix weekend laptime in F1 history, surpassing Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312 B3 Dijon pole in 1974 – and by the chequered flag that benchmark was lowered by a further two seconds.

Russell was among the last drivers to head out onto the track, and was a second off his team-mate Valtteri Bottas after his first proper series of laps – with Bottas leading Red Bull driver Max Verstappen by two tenths at the half-hour mark.

The status quo was maintained until after the session clock ticked over the halfway mark, but when Russell went out on a fresh set of softs he immediately took the top spot with his first flying lap, a 55.030s.

And Bottas was unable to respond immediately on his own set of fresh soft rubber, getting stuck in traffic on his first flyer and having the follow-up ruined by a Turn 10 lock-up.

Mercedes said Bottas had picked up damage on his car on an early lap, which compromised his pace and ultimately limited his running.

Bottas did finally go faster a few minutes later, but by then it was only good enough for second, as Verstappen had jumped ahead with the first sub-55s lap of the weekend and Bottas came up 0.020s short of overhauling his 54.848s.

Moments later Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Alex Albon went marginally quicker, before Russell uncorked a 54.546s on what were already fairly used softs to establish a quarter-second lead.

Verstappen soon jumped back ahead of Albon before, but only got to 0.176s off Russell – with Albon completing the top three despite having later lost the car through Turn 2 in a spin that caused no significant damage.

Bottas was only fourth, 0.322s down on Russell, with the AlphaTauri duo of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly completing the top five in an overall fantastic showing for the team.

The only blip was Gasly having to return to the pits at one point with a broken right rearview mirror, which he had to hold with his left hand while steering with his right hand.

Renault’s aptitude for low-downforce layouts appeared visible yet again as Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo were seventh and ninth respectively, split by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc made up the top 10, having a big snap through Turn 5 early on in the session that led to a trip through the gravel.

Lance Stroll was the lead Racing Point in 11th, a second off the pace, while Sainz ultimately led McLaren’s efforts in 13th.

The weekend’s F1 debutants Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken completed the order.

Pietro Fittipaldi Haas Sakhir Grand Prix 2020

Fittipaldi, who is substituting for Haas driver Romain Grosjean this weekend, had to end his running early due to a big lock-up and was 2.5s off the pace, a second off team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

Williams reserve driver Aitken, piloting Russell’s FW43, had a big half-spin exiting Turn 2, and wound up four tenths behind Russell’s regular team-mate Nicholas Latifi.

Practice 1 Results

Pos Name Car Best Time Gap Leader
1 George Russell Mercedes 54.546s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 54.722s +0.176s
3 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 54.811s +0.265s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 54.868s +0.322s
5 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 55.011s +0.465s
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 55.166s +0.62s
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 55.273s +0.727s
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 55.281s +0.735s
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55.379s +0.833s
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 55.449s +0.903s
11 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 55.558s +1.012s
12 Sergio Pérez Racing Point-Mercedes 55.716s +1.17s
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 55.757s +1.211s
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55.783s +1.237s
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55.858s +1.312s
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 56.13s +1.584s
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 56.764s +2.218s
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas-Ferrari 57.077s +2.531s
20 Jack Aitken Williams-Mercedes 57.187s +2.641s
George Russell Mercedes Sakhir Grand Prix 2020

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