Ferrari back on top in Bahrain, but all eyes on the W13

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc leads Sebastian Vettel in testing. Bahrain March 2022

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in the F1-75 leads Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin AMR02 during testing. Bahrain March 2022

Charles Leclerc led from start to finish on the opening morning of F1’s official pre-season test but it was the Mercedes W13 that created the headlines, and Red Bull’s comments about it the controversy.

With just three days of running before the first grand prix of the season, the teams arrived at the Sakhir circuit with new solutions for their 2022 cars.

Aston Martin ran a new floor, one that looked as if a parallel parking moment had gone wrong and it had hit the kerb, while Mercedes debuted the much-talked about zero pod W13.

Lewis Hamilton was in action for the Brackley squad and quickly began to lay down the laps while those in the paddock had their say about the design.

Meanwhile Leclerc put in a 1:35.953 to sit on top of the timesheet after the first hour before shaving almost a second-and-a-half off that in the second hour.

His 1:34.531 set on the C3 tyres, Pirelli’s mediums, stood as the time to beat through to the lunch break.

Ferrari was one team that didn’t bring a major update with them, at least not on the surface of the car.

Team boss Mattia Binotto will be hoping that Leclerc’s pace is a sign of things to come.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s action, he said: “We will want try to extract the most of the performance from the car itself. So certainly, in Bahrain, I think the relative competitiveness of the teams will become more clear.”

Leclerc’s day though, wasn’t entirely trouble free as like the rest of the field he at times struggled with Turn 10 on the slippery surface.

But it was at Turn 7 where his had his big moment of the morning, running wide over the kerb before coming to an almost stop at the apex of Turn 8. That brought out the VSC, but only for a minute.

Alex Albon was second fastest in the Williams, finishing ahead of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel while Sergio Perez was fourth.

The Mexican driver was 1.7s slower than Leclerc, Red Bull not pitching up at the Sakhir circuit with the significantly upgraded package they were rumoured to be bringing.

But there is some speculation that will be on the car come Friday’s running.

Hamilton was fifth, covering 61 laps in his W13, the Briton finishing the morning ahead of Esteban Ocon and Guanya Zhou.

2022’s only rookie had a much better morning than what Alfa Romeo had experienced in Spain as he managed 52 laps.

He did, however, have a minor moment when he stopped in the pit lane in front of the Mercedes garage prompting his mechanics to make a dash down the pit lane to retrieve the C42.

Lando Norris had to jump into the McLaren this morning, the Briton initially expecting to watch his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo put in the laps. The Aussie, though, felt ill overnight and forced McLaren to change their plans.

The team completed the fewest laps of everyone with Norris covering just 21, the driver stuck in the garage as McLaren investigated an unspecified issue around the front brakes.

Norris was P8 ahead of Pierre Gasly on a timesheet that only featured nine times, Haas out of the mix.

 

Haas did not join their rivals on the track for the morning’s session, the team’s test delayed after their freight was late to arrive.

The team, which no longer has a title sponsor after parting ways with Russian fertilizer company Uralkali and also race driver Nikita Mazepin, is expected to take to the track this afternoon with test driver Pietro Fittipaldi behind the wheel of the VF-22.

Times

1 Leclerc – Ferrari – 1m34.531s – C3 – 63 laps
2 Albon – Williams – 1m35.070s – C4 – 53 laps
3 Vettel – Aston Martin – 1m35.706s – C3 – 37 laps
4 Perez – Red Bull – 1m36.247s – C2 – 69 laps
5 Hamilton – Mercedes – 1m36.365s – C3 – 61 laps
6 Ocon – Alpine – 1m36.768s – C2 – 42 laps
7 Zhou – Alfa Romeo – 1m38.164s – C3 – 53 laps
8 Norris – McLaren – 1m37.580s – C2 – 21 laps
9 Gasly – AlphaTauri – 1m37.888s – C2 – 44 laps

 

Mercedes stun paddock with no sidepod W13

Mercedes have stunned the Formula One paddock with their W13 having no sidepods.