Sakhir, FP1: Russell quickest in Bahrain practice on first outing with Mercedes

Verstappen 2nd, Albon 3rd

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By Olivier Ferret

4 December 2020 - 16:08
Sakhir, FP1: Russell quickest in (...)

George Russell set the fastest lap of free practice in his first appearance with Mercedes following his dramatic switch to the Constructors’ champions from Williams following Lewis Hamilton’s positive test for COVID-19 earlier in the week.

The 22-year-old Briton set the pace on the unfamiliar Outer Track of the Bahrain International Circuit, lapping in a time of 54.546 to beat Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by 0.176. Third place in the session went to Alexander Albon in the second Red Bull.

Piloting the Mercedes W11 for the first time Russell eased himself into the session gradually, sitting in the lower half of the top ten for periods during the first 40 minutes of the session.

But over the course of his runs on soft tyres the William regular made rapid improvements and eventually found enough time to eclipse the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Albon, who had both taken turns at the top of the timesheet. While Albon finished just under a tenth behind Verstappen, it was not an entirely trouble-free session for the Thai driver and at one point he suffered a lurid spin at Turn 2 as he tried to find the limit.

Russell’s new team-mate Valtteri Bottas led the way early in the session but the Finn eventually ended the 90 minutes a little over three tenths behind Russell as he experienced handling difficulties that resulted in a number of lock-ups in the high-speed circuit’s heavy braking points.

Bottas was followed by the AlphaTauri cars of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly who finished fifth and sixth respectively, while Esteban Ocon took seventh for Renault ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Ocon’s team-mate Daniel Riccirado finished the session in ninth place with the top 10 order being rounded out by Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.

Racing Point drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez finished 11th and 12th ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Two drivers made their F1 weekend debut in the session, with Pietro Fittipaldi sitting in for Romain Grosjean following the Frenchman’s crash in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, while Jack Aitken took over Russell’s Williams.

Fittpaldi finished in 19th place but his session ended early when he heavily flat-spotted his tyres, while Aitken took 20th place four tenths of a second behind his new team-mate Nicholas Latifi who finished in P18 behind Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Pos.DriverCarTimeLaps
01 George Russell Mercedes W11 54.546 49
02 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16 54.722 29
03 Alex Albon Red Bull Honda RB16 54.811 18
04 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W11 54.868 44
05 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri Honda AT01 55.011 40
06 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT01 55.166 37
07 Esteban Ocon Renault RS20 55.273 49
08 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari SF1000 55.281 40
09 Daniel Ricciardo Renault RS20 55.376 39
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF1000 55.449 35
11 Lance Stroll Racing Point Mercedes RP20 55.558 41
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes RP20 55.716 33
13 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault MCL35 55.757 41
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 55.783 32
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 55.858 35
16 Lando Norris McLaren Renault MCL35 56.078 47
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-20 56.130 37
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43 56.764 48
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas Ferrari VF-20 57.077 24
20 Jack Aitken Williams Mercedes FW43 57.187 33

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