Day three midday: Perez on top in upgraded RB18

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez in the revised RB18 with the sculptured sidepods in testing. Bahrain March 2022

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez in the revised RB18 with the sculptured sidepods in testing. Bahrain March 2022

Debuting their upgraded sidepod package on the final day of the Bahrain test, Red Bull’s RB18 set the pace with Sergio Perez behind the wheel.

Although Red Bull were expected to arrive at the Sakhir circuit with an updated package, there was no sign of that on the opening two days of testing.

Perez, though, told the world on Friday to watch this space as it would be out on Saturday.

After a 50 minute delay, he left the Red Bull garage in the revised car, the RB18 featuring sculpted sidepods and a new floor.

His very first flying lap, done on a short three-lap run, put him P1 with a 1:34.733.

Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou briefly took over at the top only for Perez to hit back with a 1:33.105 to finish the morning, his final pre-season run before the Bahrain Grand Prix, up in P1.

Team boss Christian Horner was a happy man.

“It’s a constant evolution… we’ve obviously got a few new parts this morning and we’re evaluating,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.

“[Sergio] seems to be happy with the characteristics of the car. But it’s so hard to draw any real conclusions, all you can do is focus on your own programme.

“It seems to be behaving as we hoped for.”

Zhou had to settle for second place but it was once again a good session for the rookie, the Chinese driver clocking 82 laps.

That, though, didn’t put him on top of the lap count, that went to Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri AT03. He covered 91 laps in the morning, that’s one and a half grand prix distances in one morning.

He also showed pace, third fastest ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine. The Spaniard’s A522 was fitted with an upgraded front wing.

Lando Norris spent his third full day in the McLaren, the Briton once again the sole driver in action after Daniel Ricciardo tested positive for Covid-19.

McLaren ran new brake ducts with Andreas Seidl telling Auto Motor und Sport it while it was an improvement, the problem wasn’t solved.

“We need another step before the first race,” said the team boss. “As things stand today, we could do a race distance, but we would have to manage the brakes.” Norris did not manage a race distance, 39 laps for the driver.

Nicholas Latifi was next in line for Williams, finishing ahead of Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen.

Mercedes made it clear on Friday that Hamilton’s morning would be spent on long runs, the seven-time World Champion more than three seconds off the pace.

As for Magnussen, he started the day before anyone else doing 17 laps during the extra hour Haas were allowed to run having missed Thursday morning’s action.

He did the same on Friday night, P1 at the Sakhir circuit, but on Saturday was slowest of the 10 morning runners as first a water pressure leak and then a fuel system issue curtailed his running.



1 Perez – Red Bull – 1m33.105s – C4 – 43 laps
2 Zhou – Alfa Romeo – 1m33.959s – C4 – 82 laps
3 Gasly – AlphaTauri – 1m34.865s – C4 – 91 laps
4 Sainz – Ferrari – 1m34.905s – C5 – 68 laps
5 Alonso – Alpine – 1m35.328s – C4 – 54 laps
6 Norris – McLaren – 1m35.504s – C4 – 39 laps
7 Latifi – Williams – 1m35.634s – C3 – 73 laps
8 Stroll – Aston Martin – 1m36.029s – C3 – 53 laps
9 Hamilton – Mercedes – 1m36.217s – C5 – 78 laps
10 Magnussen – Haas – 1m38.616s – C2 – 38 laps