FP1: Russell makes Merc debut, bags a practice P1 | F1 News by PlanetF1

FP1: Russell makes Merc debut, bags a practice P1 | F1 News by PlanetF1


George Russell seized his moment as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement, grabbing his first practice P1 at the Sakhir GP and recording F1’s shortest ever lap time, 54.5s.

The previous shortest lap time was Niki Lauda with a 58.79s in 1974, at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in a Ferrari.

Max Verstappen was second quickest, 0.176s down, with Alex Albon third.

Valtteri Bottas, who is adamant this weekend is not a “showdown” for a Mercedes race seat, was P4, 0.322s slower than Russell.

Formula 1 stepped into the unknown on Friday as the 20 drivers took to the Bahrain International Circuit’s outer oval for the first time ever. And three of them were in new cars.

Russell climbed into the Mercedes W11, replacing Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for Covid-19, with Jack Aitken making his F1 debut with Williams.

Over at Haas, Pietro Fittipaldi substituted for the injured Romain Grosjean as the Frenchman continues his recovery from the burns and sprained ankle he suffered last Sunday when he crashed at Turn 3.

Fittipaldi was the first of the trio to put in an installation lap, followed by Aitken with Russell one of the last drivers out on track. The Brit is squeezing into the cockpit this weekend, even needing to wear shoes a size smaller to fit in. Even the Virtual Safety Car made an appearance before Russell.


Jack Aitken = @WilliamsRacing

Pietro Fittipaldi = @HaasF1Team #SakhirGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/KYnD5PmbaC

— Formula 1 (@F1) December 4, 2020

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were out early, a 56.6s, yip you read that right, as the opening gambit around the 3.5km long circuit. Russel’s opening hot lap was a 58.9s while Daniel Ricciardo went quickest with a 56.2s, his next effort a 55.8s.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were second and third while Russell improved to a 56.9. Aitken was a further second behind with Fittipaldi a second adrift of the Williams.

One of the last to exit the pits, Verstappen was immediately aware of the problems that the short circuit posed as he had to wait a few seconds for traffic to pass before there was a gap for him to pull into it. He went second quickest on his first hot lap, 0.5s behind Bottas who had just gone fastest with a 55.1. Verstappen upped his pace but stayed second.

Leclerc had the first notable moment of the evening as he went wide at Turn 4, tried to carry the speed through 5 and went off, eating dirt on he made his way back onto the track. Shortly after Pierre Gasly was seen completing his lap with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding onto his right wing mirror which had come loose of the supporting strut.

Pierre with a broken mirror pic.twitter.com/rXxZSoxmQW

— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) December 4, 2020

40 minutes into the session, that time when the drivers hand their first set of tyres back to Pirelli, and it was Bottas who was P1 ahead of Verstappen, Albon, Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Ocon, Russel, Gasly, Leclerc and Sergio Perez. Aitken was 19th with Fittipaldi P20.

Back out on track with fresh soft tyres bolted to his W11, Russell laid down a 1:55.0, a tenth up on Bottas’ previous best. Behind him Fittipaldi had a massive lock up and informed Haas that he “destroyed the tyre”. Aitken was checking out the scenery as he spun off the track, taking to the run off on the edge of the gravel trap to get back into the action.

Bottas, coming up on a bit of traffic in the form of Russell and others, made a small mistake and aborted his first hot lap on new soft tyres. His second, which saw him wide at 7 and 8, was slower than his previous best.

Verstappen, running a bit wide at Turn 8, showed that line works as he went fastest in the middle sector on his way to a 54.8 and P1, That, though, was beaten by Albon with a 54.8.

Over at Ferrari, Leclerc had to take to the the run-off at Turn 8 after encountering a slow Vettel at the middle part of the lap. The duo were P7 and P9 with Vettel the faster of the team-mates.

The Mercedes chaps went out for another run with Russell hitting the front, 54.546, and Bottas fourth. Verstappen, again running a bit wide, went second, 0.176s off the pace while Albon spun his RB16 at the exit of Turn 2.

The disadvantages of being taller than Lewis… pic.twitter.com/PfLer5IlCM

— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) December 4, 2020

Kvyat dropped to fifth, finishing ahead of his team-mate Gasly, Ocon, Vettel, Ricciardo and Leclerc.

Fittipaldi was 19th, 2.5s down, with Aitken P20, a further tenth off the pace.


1George RussellMercedes0:54.546
2Max VerstappenRed Bull0.176s
3Alex AlbonRed Bull0.265s
4Valtteri BottasMercedes0.322s
5Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri0.465s
6Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri0.620s
7Esteban OconRenault0.727s
8Sebastian VettelFerrari0.735s
9Daniel RicciardoRenault0.833s
10Charles LeclercFerrari0.903s
11Lance StrollRacing Point1.012s
12Sergio PerezRacing Point1.170s
13Carlos SainzMcLaren1.211s
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing1.237s
15Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing1.312s
16Lando NorrisMcLaren1.532s
17Kevin MagnussenHaas1.584s
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams2.218s
19Pietro FittipaldiHaas2.531s
20Jack AitkenWilliams2.641s

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