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BahrainGP Day 1: Driver quotes FP1 and FP2

BahrainGP Day 1: Driver quotes FP1 and FP2 sparks fly lewis hamilton mercedes

Drivers report from the first day, with official quotes from their teams at the end of Day 1 of the first weekend of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship season, the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir.

Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell topped the opening day of the season’s action at the familiar Bahrain International Circuit, on a day in which the pecking order is starting to shape up but with still a number of unknowns, among them is what Red Bull have in store for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez when they unleash the RB20 on Saturday evening, in qualifying when all will be revealed.

Below are quotes extracted from team reports on Thursday, after FP1 and FP2, action in Bahrain:

Max Verstappen, Red Bull: “The practice sessions today were not perfect but we weren’t too far off. The long runs were quite decent, and I think we can always do a little better on those laps. There were a few small balance issues that we will work on but I am quite happy with everything with the car overall. Today was just about trying to find that sweet spot and getting the perfect balance in the car. Performing well in qualifying is important, so we will make sure the car is in good shape ahead of tomorrow. I’m not too worried about the gap to P1 and we aren’t looking too much at the others and are just focusing on ourselves at the moment. It’s going to be very close in qualifying but we will try and work a bit more and fight for pole tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull: “I think these sessions were key and very interesting, we have a plenty to explore on the car, that we didn’t have the chance to during testing, so we are exploring it now with the mechanical balance here and there. The good thing is that whatever we do on performance runs seems to help the long runs. We just have one aim, which is to make a more balanced car and that will make things better for the race and qualifying. Today was as expected. We heard a lot of people saying that we were a second ahead after testing, which made me smile because I knew things would be a lot closer. It is looking very competitive across the grid, and it is going to be tight on Friday night in Bahrain quali.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: “It was very windy in FP1, and the track was very different to during the test. We didn’t know exactly where we would stack up against everyone else, but we had a positive FP2 session. The car was feeling good, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We know there is more to extract, and our long run pace isn’t in the fight with the Red Bulls. Overall though, I’m feeling much happier with the car than last year. We’ve made some good improvements and it feels much more like a race car. It’s a really good platform for us to build from. We just need to keep our heads down and keep chasing.”

George Russell, Mercedes: “We’re not going to get carried away after one day of practice. Our qualifying pace did look strong. We made some changes from the test and the improvement exceeded our expectations. But ultimately our long run pace is where it counts. Verstappen looked comfortably quickest, and it was very tight with the Ferraris, the McLarens, and the Aston Martins. So we’ve likely got a real fight on our hands there. Nevertheless, we’re pleased with how our day has gone; the car is performing well. We will sit down and understand where the main improvements came from and try to sustain that. We want to be fighting for good positions on Saturday night.”

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari: “It was a trickier practice day compared to testing in Bahrain with lower temps and higher winds, which made it more difficult to be consistent on track. We obviously don’t know the run plan of the others, but in terms of competitiveness it looks like we’re more or less where we expected to be. Apart from that, I feel we have had a good Thursday, completing all our programme and tyre testing. Now it’s time to analyse the data and get ready for tomorrow’s quali. I look forward to it, it looks like it’s going to be tight!”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: First day done. Not much to say, as it’s very difficult to read our competitiveness for now but there were no big surprises. It was good to be back in the car alongside all the other drivers to kick off the season. Now we have quite a lot of work to do, especially in terms of balance. Let’s see where we stand tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin: “We focused on our programme today and are happy with the work we’ve done. We used Medium tyres during FP1 and then focused our attention more towards the Softs in FP2. We learnt more about the car whilst making some positive setup changes that we’re happy with. It’s important not to read too much into the timesheets at this stage because of a number of different factors and variables, but I’m feeling positive and looking forward to the first Qualifying of the season.”

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin: “Overall, it’s been a solid day here in Bahrain. I think we made a step in FP2, the car felt good with the setup changes we made. I haven’t looked fully into the long run pace yet but the car felt pretty good, so that’s positive. Obviously, it’s still early days and we don’t know what others were doing with their fuel loads in the session. We’ll know a lot more after Qualifying and the Grand Prix.”

Lando Norris, McLaren: “It’s been a reasonable day. I’m happy with how Thursday went overall. We made some progress with the car, there are still plenty of things to improve on, but we improved the balance and I got more comfortable, which is a good thing. I didn’t do a great job in putting a lap together, so it wasn’t a very representative day on the timesheets, but overall, a good first day and a good start to the weekend.”

Oscar Piastri, McLaren: “It was a good session in Bahrain. I felt like we were pretty competitive in both low and high fuel running. It’ll be interesting to see what we’re like tomorrow, but I think it was a pretty solid day overall. I was happy with my driving, and we got some good information out of the session. It will be interesting to see what the grid is like when all the sandbags are gone, but I think we’re about where we expected to be and we’re in a good place going into tomorrow.”

Alex Albon, Williams: “We were relatively surprised by our pace in FP1 but by FP2, we found a good pace on the Medium tyre, however lost a little bit on the Softs. The cars around us are quicker than I’d like, especially the Haas, so we need to look at what we can do better. The car feels different behind the wheel but it’s not yet translating to performance, so we’ve got some work to do. Everyone seems to have made a big step over the break as well, so it’s difficult to say but it’s early days and there’s still a lot to learn from the car.”

Logan Sargeant, Williams: “Today in Bahrain was good. The car felt like a big step forward from the test and shows that the work that Alex and the team did on day three was a step in the right direction. I’m generally happy with the car and the balance. There’s some fine tuning to do but I’m quite confident with the car I have underneath me, we just need to see where we are pace wise tomorrow. It’s good to be starting my second season this weekend and I’m looking forward to continually improving myself and being consistent through the year.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine: “It was a productive day of Bahrain Practice where we ran through different programmes and learnt more about the car. The morning session was particularly difficult with the windy conditions, but the car felt much better in FP2. We seem to be better in the evening in cooler conditions compared to the morning session. That’s something to be positive about, as they’re the conditions we’ll be Qualifying in tomorrow and racing in on Saturday. We look more competitive in the long runs, but we need to find more pace over a single lap to put us in a better position for Qualifying. We will analyse the data overnight and work hard to unlock some performance, especially in Qualifying trim.”

Pierre Gasly, Alpine: “We’re back on track for the first Practice of the season. We tried some things on the car throughout the day, which resulted in some positive learnings. The car was certainly trickier in the first session under the hot and gusty conditions. We reverted some things and I had a better feeling in the car in the evening session. We know the performance is not quite where we want it to be but we’re continuing to understand more and more each time we’re on track. Patience is required and we’ll try to make the best with the package we have in our hands right now. The team and I are working hard to keep finding performance. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow and on Saturday and I’m ready to keep pushing.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas : “It was a pretty good Friday – the first one of the year – so not much of a reference yet. This morning, we continued to focus on long-run and race-pace stuff, trying a couple of things. This afternoon was more like a normal program. The pace over one lap was maybe a bit unexpected but also there’s no reason to get over-excited or over-ambitious now. I think there were a few people who didn’t do low-fuel runs and have more potential, but it’s going to be tight and fun to see. I expect a very tight field in qualifying like it was last year, it will continue to be like that – so the smallest mistake can have a big impact. I’m not exactly sure where we’ll slot in, but we’ll put everything that we have into tomorrow.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas: “I think it’s been a pretty decent day. There’s still a big uncertainty on other people’s fuel loads etc. but again we were focusing on race runs and that was actually good – I’m encouraged so far. On low-fuel, it’s still going to be a big learning curve as we haven’t had any running – FP2 was the first real low-fuel run that we did, so lots to learn there. It seems simpler than the high-fuel running, which I feel like we’ve gone in the right direction with in terms of tire-wear at least. I’m curious to learn about the real pace of the car in race conditions but tire degradation is better.”

Valtteri Bottas, Sauber: “It was good to finally get the season underway with the first practice sessions of the year in Bahrain and get some more mileage in. I reckon we learned a lot since testing last week, working around and discovering more about the setup of our car: still, there is some extra work that needs to be done, especially on the single-lap performance. This’ll be our main task overnight and during the final practice session tomorrow morning. It seems we are still quite close to our main competitors, and it’ll likely come down to a handful of tenths in Qualifying tomorrow.”

Zhou Guanyu, Sauber: “It was good to be back on track in an official session in Bahrain. Today’s conditions were quite different from what we experienced during testing, which made it fairly interesting: we had some issues in the morning, but our afternoon went quite smoothly, and we were able to tick all our boxes. Now, our focus is on getting everything ready ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying: it’s difficult to evaluate the true pecking order, as FP2 didn’t show the true potential of our performance and, similarly, we don’t know what everyone else was doing. It’s a very close midfield, once again, and we might have a tight qualifying session.”