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Ricciardo sets Saturday morning pace

NEWS STORY
13/03/2021

As was the case on Friday, McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo set the morning pace at the Bahrain International Circuit, while Lewis Hamilton caused a red flag and Sebastian Vettel needed a gearbox change.

While there was no sandstorm for the drivers to deal with this morning, strong winds managed to cause their own problems, with a number of drivers running wide or spinning as a result.

Worst affected was Lewis Hamilton, who spun at Turn 13, which, along with Turn 11, was one of the worst affected corners.

After losing the rear of the Mercedes the world champion remained in his car which was stuck in the gravel, and as team members raced to his rescue, so too did photographers keen to get exclusive shots of the stricken W12 for their respective paymasters.

Once on site, said team members quickly covered up the car, while back in the Mercedes garage the frustration and concern was obvious.

While Hamilton was rescued the session was red-flagged, resuming twelve minutes later. Around twenty-five minutes after that Hamilton was back on track, the Briton and his car seemingly none the worse for their misadventure.

Yesterday morning, teammate Valtteri Bottas lost much of his running time due to a gear shift issue that necessitated a change of gearbox, and today it was Sebastian Vettel's turn to suffer a similar issue.

In the final moments of the session the German headed out again to hopefully add to the 6 laps he had already completed, only for the session to be red-flagged again in order to allow the FIA to carry out one of its various systems checks.

Prior to Hamilton's off the only excitement was Daniel Ricciardo having to pit to have a plastic bag removed from his front wing, which if nothing else detracted from the lashings of flo-vis that left the rear end of the car looking a total mess.

Morning pace-setter Ricciardo was actually one of the last drivers to post a time, with Giovinazzi and Vettel also seemingly in no rush to put their names on the timesheets.

Meanwhile, Spaniards Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso dominated proceedings, the former one of several, along with Vettel and Ricciardo, to try the prototype tyres.

Today saw Williams introduce a number of its aero upgrades after Nissany ran with a 'bog standard' package yesterday, and Nicholas Latifi made good use of them, posting a time good enough for fourth - albeit on the softs - that stood for the remainder of the morning.

It was around two hours into the session that the wind began to cause problems, first for Perez, who had a moment at Turn 11 before Latifi had a big spin at Turn 7 which destroyed his front tyres.

Sainz subsequently had two moments, a big slide at Turn 4 then the rear end snapping away in Turn 6, which, shortly after, was followed by Hamilton's off.

Doing our best not to inflame social media tensions, Nikita Mazepin was involved in two minor incidents, the first when he almost tripped up over a slow Hamilton - the Briton appearing to be adjusting settings on his steering wheel - and another when the Haas driver encountered an unusually slow Antonio Giovinazzi.

Other than that however, the Haas driver had a good morning, completing 76 laps, the most of the ten drivers on duty.

It was a quiet morning for Carlos Sainz and Ferrari, the Italian team yet to show its hand... much like its rivals, though, based on first impressions, it doesn't appear to have the wherewithal to worry the likes of McLaren or the other leading midfield battlers just yet.

As we keep saying, it's early days, but on the little evidence thus far, McLaren and Red Bull are looking good, as does Alpine and AlphaTauri, and while there were no technical issues for Mercedes, there remains doubt over the W12's handling and, of course, the apparent weaknesses in the gearbox.

Hopefully there will be no sandstorms this afternoon as the majority of teams change their drivers, leaving only Perez, Alonso, Giovinazzi and Latifi to carry on where they left off earlier.

While Mazepin completed 76 laps, Giovinazzi completed 73, Alonso 60 and Hamilton 58, while Vettel managed just 10.

Check out our Day 2 pre-season test gallery from Bahrain, here.

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1. Posted by kenji, 13/03/2021 12:13

"Ricciardo is looking comfortable in the car and it seems to be quite a sweet handler. He is definitely on the pace early and showing none of the signs that he's finding adaptation at all hard. The early omens do seem somewhat favorable ATM. Hopefully this will translate into race performances for the team as Norris did well yesterday too but that was to be expected as this is his third season with the team. Elsewhere there appears to be quite a few early bugs in some teams but come race day they'll all be ironed out and Mercedes will romp away closely chased by Red Bull with the rest 'duking' it out for the crumbs."

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