The expectation before the opening race of the season was that Ferrari were ahead of Mercedes. That didn’t transpire and it was a 1-2 for Mercedes in the Australian Grand Prix. A fortnight later, Ferrari dominated the first two practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Drivers’ – 26 Valtteri Bottas 18 – Lewis Hamilton 15 – Max Verstappen 12 – Sebastian Vettel 10 – Charles Leclerc
Constructors’ – 44 – Mercedes 22 – Ferrari 15 – Red Bull
It was a Ferrari 1-2 in the first practice session with Charles Leclerc 0.263 seconds ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes filled third and fourth with Valtteri Bottas nearest the times set by the Ferrari’s, but his car was 0.974 seconds behind Leclerc. Lewis Hamilton was 1.247 seconds behind the quickest of the Ferrari’s. He could have been the quickest of the Mercedes but ran wide at the final corner when on his best lap.
The Italian team have spent the last fortnight going through the data from the Australian Grand Prix. A period that Vettel described as “intense”, but they seem to have found some answers. However, he added that “we are not in a position to be able to make promises.”
Max Verstappen was fifth in his Red Bull with team-mate Pierre Gasly in sixth. It was another promising session for McLaren with Carlos Sainz seventh quickest. The top ten was completed by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Kimi Raikkonen in his Alfa Romeo.
The only crash of the session was by Lance Stroll in his Racing point car. He damaged the front wing after losing control at Turn Four after hitting the wall. There was a better performance by the Williams team. They filled the last two spots, but George Russell was only 0.6 seconds adrift of Stroll in 18th.
Again, it was a 1-2 for Ferrari but this time it was Sebastian Vettel who was fastest. He was just 0.035 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc but again there was a good-sized lead over Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton was third-fastest but 0.568 seconds behind Vettel. He was only 0.108 seconds ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas but at least he finished ahead of him for a change.
Fifth fastest was Nico Hulkenburg in his Renault. It was a poor session for Red Bull with Max Verstappen 0.783 seconds behind Vettel. His team-mate Pierre Gasly down in 13th, 0.862 seconds behind Verstappen.
Speaking after the second practice session, Hamilton said that Ferrari were producing something “completely different to what we’ve seen in Melbourne.” He added that he’d had some problems with the balance of his car in the first practice session, but they had been improved for the second session. The defending world champion believes “everything will get a little bit closer” when it comes to qualifying but is expecting a “tough battle.”
We look to be in for an intriguing Saturday. Can the Ferrari’s keep up their strong pace or will Mercedes grab pole position for the second race in a row? I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on the final practice session and qualifying, till then enjoy your racing.