Bahrain Grand Prix: Daniel Ricciardo bags surprise P1 but there’s more to the FP1 story

Michelle Foster
Daniel Ricciardo lapping in Bahrain in the RB01

Daniel Ricciardo clinched the season's first P1.

Daniel Ricciardo clinched an unexpected P1 in the opening practice hour of the season in Bahrain, but it was a session in which the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari didn’t do soft tyre runs.

The RB driver pipped the McLarens to the top spot on the timesheet, 0.032s up on Lando Norris, with Fernando Alonso the quickest of the soft tyre runners in fifth place.

After concerns Red Bull and Max Verstappen could run away unchallenged this season, FP1 offered some signs of encouragement. Of course, it was just the very first session of the campaign.

Daniel Ricciardo pipped the McLarens in FP1

Almost three months after Kevin Magnussen completed the final official lap of the 2023 season, Formula 1 was back with the opening practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix at a warm and windy Sakhir circuit.

With a mere day and a half under their belts, the drivers were quickly out of the pits with aero rakes and flo-vis paint, nope that was a Stake, and a Stake without brakes as Zhou Guanyu cautiously returned to the pits.

Nico Hulkenberg clocked the first lap time of the championship with a 1:38.955, but he was P8 and four seconds off the pace not even a minute later.

As Lando Norris was warned that the wind was “very strong”, Charles Leclerc felt it with a wild snap at Turn 4.

Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz had a turn in P1, that was until Max Verstappen ventured out of the garage with the defending World Champion quickest on his first flying lap with a 1:33.900. Worryingly for Red Bull’s rivals, he told the team over the radio: “Everything is s***, like miles off.”

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Hamilton, Perez and Leclerc stacked up behind Verstappen, separated by 0.166s, before George Russell got involved in the mix only for Verstappen to bounce back into P1 with a 1:33.535. “Still very back downshifts and upshifts,” he said before adding that his car is “literally jumping”.

A brief lull followed as the drivers returned to the pits with some work going on with Hamilton’s front wing and also the rear left of Magnussen’s Haas. Mercedes were also working on the front-end of Russell’s W15.

The McLarens were the first back out with Oscar Piastri bolting a set of softs onto his MCL38 to go quickest before Norris came through with a 1:32.901. Interestingly, Daniel Ricciardo overhauled the McLarens and told RB that he doesn’t think he “can improve” on his 1:32.869.

From Piastri to Lance Stroll to Esteban Ocon, the drivers complained about the wind buffering their cars, perhaps playing a role in the decision from many of the drivers not to complete a soft tyre run.

That meant Ricciardo’s 1:32.869 stood as the time to beat, the Aussie 0.032s up on Norris with Piastri third. Alonso was the quickest of the medium tyre runners in fifth place ahead of Verstappen and Russell.

Times

1 Daniel RICCIARDO 1:32.869
2 Lando NORRIS +0.032
3 Oscar PIASTRI +0.244
4 Yuki TSUNODA +0.314
5 Fernando ALONSO +0.324
6 Max VERSTAPPEN +0.369
7 George RUSSELL +0.382
8 Charles LECLERC +0.399
9 Lewis HAMILTON +0.433
10 Valtteri BOTTAS +0.485
11 Carlos SAINZ +0.516
12 Sergio PEREZ +0.544
13 Alexander ALBON +0.714
14 Lance STROLL +0.999
15 Guanyu ZHOU +1.054
16 Logan SARGEANT +1.344
17 Esteban OCON +1.938
18 Pierre GASLY +2.275
19 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +4.608
20 Nico HULKENBERG +5.069

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