F1 Testing: Gasly top, Ferrari impress, Mercedes turn heads

Jon Wilde
Pierre Gasly ahead of the Ferrari during official pre-season testing. Bahrain March 2022.

Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri ahead of the Ferrari during official pre-season testing. Bahrain March 2022.

Pierre Gasly put AlphaTauri top of the timesheet as Ferrari’s promising start to 2022 continued on day one of pre-season testing in Bahrain.

On a day when the appearance of the Mercedes W13, and its lack of sidepods, had dominated both the technical talk and the headlines generally, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell did not produce the startling pace it had been reported the team had found in simulations.

Instead, it was Charles Leclerc who went fastest in the initial four-hour stint and his time remained good enough for P3, bettered in the afternoon by only his team-mate Carlos Sainz and Gasly.

However, reliability was the watchword and the Scuderia will also be happy with their efforts in that area – certainly in comparison to rivals such as Alpine, for example.

After only nine cars made it onto the track for the morning session, all 10 ran in the afternoon as Haas overcame their freight difficulties to get the VF-22 into action.

A troubled pre-season on and off track for the American team will, they hope, have now been consigned to history, with test and reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi taking the wheel.

The Brazilian had been the original favourite to replace ousted Nikita Mazepin in the race seat, but was overlooked in favour of a return for Kevin Magnussen.

Fittipaldi was first onto the circuit after the lunch break and managed 47 laps in a car that had been beset by reliability issues at the unofficial session in Barcelona two weeks ago.

There was little in the way of drama, but the red flags did appear less than 45 minutes into the session when a piece of the aero rake from Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin fell from the car and remained on the track. The hiatus lasted less than 10 minutes.

A team radio broadcast from Russell appeared in which he reported the W13 “bottoming”, and the ‘porpoising’ that emerged in Barcelona was evident from the Ferrari and AlphaTauri in particular.

Alex Albon encountered a steering issue that forced the Williams into the pits, while front locking with the new 18-inch tyres was evident – Stroll encountering a particularly stark example of that issue.

As darkness fell and the afternoon’s action entered its final 50 minutes, Sainz made it a Ferrari one-two on the day by slotting in just beneath his team-mate Leclerc on the timesheet but not for long, as Gasly lopped half a second off the Monegasque’s best with a 1:34.010.

That was still 3.4 seconds off Max Verstappen’s fastest lap on day one of testing at the same venue last year, but Gasly edged a bit closer when taking another tenth off his P1 time.

But it was not a productive Thursday for everyone by any means, with Fernando Alonso unfortunately picking up where he had left off 13 days earlier at his home grand prix circuit in Catalunya.

The Alpine had made a smoky exit then and was unable to accumulate the desired mileage this time, with the two-time former World Champion adding only 24 laps to the 42 of his team-mate Esteban Ocon in the morning – neither being especially quick either.

Alonso became embroiled in a dice with Stroll in the last half hour in which neither driver wanted to yield track position, the Spaniard eventually backing off before lifting himself up the standings from last of the day’s 16 runners up to 12th.

Sergio Perez was among four drivers along with Gasly, Lando Norris and Alex Albon who had driven both sessions. The Mexican ensured Red Bull’s running – and that of everyone else as the red flags came out – ended slightly earlier than anticipated with a slow-speed spin that ended in the gravel with less than 10 minutes on the clock.


1 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:33.902 C4 103
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:34.359 C3 52
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.531 C3 64
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:34.736 C4 50
5 Alex Albon Williams 1:35.070 C4 104
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1:35.356 C2 50
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:35.495 C3 66
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:35.706 C3 39
9 George Russell Mercedes 1:35.941 C3 60
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:35.977 C2 138
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.365 C3 62
12 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:36.745 C3 24
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:36.768 C2 42
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:37.164 C3 54
15 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1:37.422 C2 47