Pierre Gasly thought the top teams must have been “hiding” to enable him to finish P1 on the opening day of the official pre-season test.
After three days in Barcelona two weeks ago, the action has become more intense at the venue for 2022’s opening grand prix in Bahrain next week.
Reliability remains more important than outright pace at this stage, of course, but Gasly was able to tick both boxes in the AlphaTauri on Thursday.
He completed 103 laps having had the AT03 to himself while team-mate Yuki Tsunoda prepared to take over on Friday.
Towards the end of the second four-hour session, Gasly was the only driver up there with the times set by Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
A driver who excelled over a single lap last year, the Frenchman went top of the timesheet by more than half a second with a 1:34.010 and then knocked off another tenth, with Sainz only able to get within 0.457sec before a red flag ended the session a few minutes early.
But Gasly sensed only his team were really interested in pumping in some qualifying-style laps and that others capable of matching his pace had been piling up the sandbags.
a solid day behind the wheel for @PierreGASLY as he racks up 103 laps and ends the day a nice P1 👌
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) March 10, 2022
“We know what we are doing, we follow our plan and obviously at the moment it doesn’t mean much until we get to qualy next week,” said Gasly during an interview with Formula 1.
“It’s always nice to be on top of the ranking, but at the end of the day I know we have some stuff to work on to find more performance, to get me more comfortable in the car. But it was a good first day.
“I don’t know what all the other guys are doing. Surely they are hiding and we are also not flat out. But [we] wanted to see a bit more what we have got and the car seems to work well.
“Still, a lot of things to improve. Looking forward to tomorrow and Saturday to find a bit more performance.”
While the times were clearly not representative, Gasly thinks there is more to extract from his car too.
“There are some positives, but as a racing driver you mainly focus on the negatives and the weaknesses of the car and what you want to work on,” he added.
“I think on my side I’m still not happy with the full behaviour and I know exactly what I like to find even more performance.
“With these new cars you have to be open-minded. There are new things we discover every time we go on track. It’s a lot about learning and exploring and hopefully we can understand things a bit faster than others.
“Coming back to today I’m happy, but got to be humble and stay focused on our job until next weekend.”
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