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Bahrain Grand Prix: Practice team notes - Pirelli

NEWS STORY
29/02/2024

The opening weekend of the longest season in Formula 1 history saw Mercedes write the first headline.

The Toto Wolff-run team had both its drivers at the top of the time sheet come the end of the second free practice session, the one that is most relevant as it was held in similar conditions to those found in tomorrow's qualifying and Saturday's race. Quickest was Lewis Hamilton (1:30.374) while team-mate George Russell was just 206 thousandths of a second slower. Behind the Mercedes duo came five drivers from five different teams in the following order: Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Oscar Piastri (McLaren), Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), all within 286 thousandths, the German's time 510 thousandths slower than Hamilton's.

Quite strong winds were the order of the day, as well as much cooler temperatures than usual for the Bahrain Grand Prix and to a lesser extent to those experienced at last week's test, with the mercury dropping below 20 for air temperature in FP2. It should be noted that this event is taking place a bit earlier in the year than usual. Hamilton's time was just under six tenths faster than the best FP2 time from last year, when Alonso posted a 1:30.907 and 666 thousandths off the 2023 pole time set by Verstappen.

One way or another, all three dry tyre compounds chosen for this Grand Prix came into play over the course of the two free practice sessions. The choices were split between the C2 and the C3, the former used the most in FP1 and the latter in FP2. No one ran the C1, clear proof that teams want to keep one or both sets for the race. That scenario played out on this track last year and would seem to be plausible, after last week's test session.

Simone Berra, Chief Engineer: "A very interesting day, because we got our first indications of the hierarchy down the pit lane, even if one has to take into account the usual unknown factors such as how much fuel the cars had on board and how the power unit was used. We saw the teams make almost identical choices in terms of tyre usage, with a preference for the C2 in the first session and the C3 in the second, when track conditions were similar to those we can expect for the race, while the two sets of C1 have been saved for the rest of the weekend. The long runs in FP2 were almost all done on the C3 and demonstrated that even the softest compound could be competitive over a long stint. As for the C2, we already saw in testing that the difference in performance compared to the C1 is not so big, but the hardest compound guarantees better consistency and is therefore the preferred choice for the race."

Check out our Thursday gallery from Bahrain here.

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