Max Verstappen laid down the gauntlet on the first day of the 2021 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix. The Dutchman topped the timesheets yet again in the second free practice session of the day. Verstappen led the timesheets ahead of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton in a session where the grid was very closely matched on pace.
In a season expected to be one of the best in Formula 1 in recent history, the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend was as encouraging as it could be. If data from the practice session is accurate, fans can expect close, competitive racing throughout the season.
Here are some key observations from the second free practice session of the Bahrain Grand Prix:
#1 The scene is set for Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton
It’s nip and tuck between Mercedes and Red Bull. Both teams are evenly matched on one-lap pace and long runs, which makes it hard to predict who has the edge right now. What’s clear, however, is that Mercedes and Red Bull will be embroiled in a battle throughout the season.
This means that two of the best drivers on the grid, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, will surely battle it out for the championship. Both drivers have similarly paced cars, which could create fireworks at the Bahrain Grand Prix and the entire Formula 1 2021 season.
#2 McLaren and Ferrari could be “best of the rest”
McLaren and Ferrari have been the standout performers in the midfield across the two practice sessions. Lando Norris has started strong and put in some incredible lap times in FP2 of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
With Aston Martin and Alpine seemingly struggling to find pace, McLaren and Ferrari should jump to the top of the midfield, claiming the position of “best of the rest.”
#3 Alpine and Aston Martin have some catching up to do
Otmar Szafnauer stressed that Aston Martin were more focused on race-pace than the qualifying trim. However, the car has failed to impress in the tight Formula 1 midfield. AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo have looked faster throughout the practice sessions so far.
Alpine, on the other hand, have lacked pace that teams like Ferrari and McLaren have already found. Fernando Alonso has looked impressive on his return to Formula 1 but is still missing the final tenth or two in terms of performance. The final practice session of the Bahrain Grand Prix should allow the French team to make setup changes and close the gap to the top of the midfield.
#4 There could be a surprise winner at the Bahrain Grand Prix
One thing has become clear after two practice sessions of the Bahrain Grand Prix – the gap between teams has reduced. Although Red Bull and Mercedes enjoy a decisive advantage, they cannot afford complacency.
McLaren and Ferrari are too close to Red Bull and Mercedes. Neither team can pick the wrong strategy, have a pit-stop debacle, or make other unforced errors. If they do, then rest assured that Ferrari and McLaren will be waiting to pick up the pieces.
#5 Yuki Tsunoda belongs in Formula 1
If there is one thing that stands out in Tsunoda, it’s his ability to adapt to new racing categories. In just his second session in Formula 1, the young Japanese dragged his AlphaTauri to two-tenths clear of his experienced teammate, Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman won his first Formula 1 race in Monza last year.
Tsunoda is also on track to be a fan favorite. His flowery team-radio language has caught the attention of followers. Apart from his radio antics, the Formula 1 paddock should keep an eye on the Japanese sensation. The Red Bull protege could follow Max Verstappen’s career path by lighting up the midfield at the Bahrain Grand Prix and throughout the season.