Max Verstappen sets pace again as Formula One testing begins in Bahrain
Max Verstappen picked up where he left off by posting the fastest time on the opening morning of Formula One testing in Bahrain.
Verstappen, 25, raced to his second consecutive world championship last year in his dominant Red Bull machine.
And on the first day of this week’s sole three-day running ahead of next Sunday’s curtain raiser, also in the Gulf Kingdom, Verstappen clocked the quickest time.
The Dutchman finished three tenths clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Williams’ Alex Albon third.
George Russell, in his all-black Mercedes was fifth, 1.2 seconds adrift, with Lewis Hamilton due to take over from his team-mate after the lunch break.
Although times in testing must be treated with caution as the teams trial varying fuel loads and strategies, Verstappen’s pace straight out of the gate might send alarm bells ringing to the rest of the field.
Verstappen won 15 of the 22 rounds last year and, with few changes to the rulebook over the winter, it is likely the double world champion will head into the new campaign as the man to beat.
Hamilton recorded his worst championship finishing position last year after Mercedes failed to master the sport’s new regulations.
The seven-time world champion lost his record of winning at least one race in every season of his career – a streak which stretched back to his debut campaign for McLaren in 2007 – and finished sixth in last year’s standings, 214 points adrift Verstappen.
The Silver Arrows’ campaign was blighted by porpoising – a phenomenon where the car moves up and down violently at high speed on its suspension.
However, a new FIA directive to raise the floor edges of this season’s cars by 15mm to help mitigate the problem has appeared to eliminate Mercedes’ bouncing.
Felipe Drugovich deputised for Lance Stroll with the Canadian a doubt for next weekend’s race following a wrist injury sustained in a recent road bike accident.
Drugovich, the reigning Formula Two champion, broke down in his Aston Martin with an electronic failure in the opening minutes before returning to the track to complete 40 laps.
Mileage, rather than speed, is key in the early stages of testing and Albon led the way with 74 laps, two laps more than Sainz.
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