The five red lights went out on the 2021 Formula 1 season on Friday morning, as pre-season testing began in Bahrain.
It was a busy winter for the sport, with team takeovers and driver transfers rife. Aston Martin and Alpine became the new faces of the former Racing Point and Renault teams respectively, whilst high-profile moves for Daniel Ricciardo (to McLaren), Sergio Perez (Red Bull), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) look sure to give us an enthralling year of racing action.
With three sessions already under the belt, here are three things we’ve learnt from testing so far.
Danny Ric settling in
The Australian’s move to McLaren was one of the most hotly anticipated driver transfers in years. McLaren were touting the now-seven-time-race winner after his Red Bull departure in 2018, and after a semi-successful two year spell at Renault, Ricciardo will finally don the papaya of the MCL35M in 2021.
And it didn’t take long for the Aussie to get to grips in his new environment, topping the timing sheets in the morning session on Day 1. Day 2 followed a similar pattern, as a 1:32.215 was enough to once again lead in the morning session classification.
Ricciardo would’ve been relieved to make a good early impression in the Middle East, a feeling McLaren Chief Executive Zak Brown will also likely share.
F1 fans have become accustomed to Silver Arrow domination over the past few years, but it was a different story in the sandy setting of Sakhir.
Albeit it was the very first day of pre-season testing – in which lap times are almost completely and utterly irrelevant – but the struggles Mercedes endured still raised many eyebrows.
The rest of the paddock would’ve been stunned to see seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton uncharacteristically lose the back end in spin into the gravel on the morning of Day 2, whilst gearbox issues for Valtteri Bottas on Day 1 limited him to the 17th fastest time.
These problems almost certainly won’t affect Toto Wolff’s team’s likely dominance in 2021 but are interesting nonetheless.
Déjà vu for Vettel
Gearbox issues meant that Day 2 was almost redundant for Vettel, who managed just a few laps.
After a decent run on Day 1, no-one would’ve blamed the German for cursing his luck as he spent the majority of Day 2 leaning against a wall, watching engineers work on his new Aston Martin.
It will no doubt have given the four-time World Champion flashbacks to his time at Ferrari, where reliability issues plagued his last year or two at the Scuderia.
The 33-year-old will be trying his best to make sure his time with Aston Martin Racing is plenty more amicable.