F1: Perez leads final day of testing, Hamilton 2nd
Sahil, Bahrain –
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez climbed the leaderboard as the sun went down to lead the third and final day of Saturday’s F1 testing.
It underscored how strong Red Bull looks heading into next weekend’s season opener at the same Sakir desert circuit in Bahrain.
Giampiero Lambiase, Head of Race Engineering at Red Bull, said: “Czech (Perez) was able to complete a number of test items, including qualifying and the opportunity to get a feel for the car in more race-like conditions.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was 0.36s ahead of Perez, but the twitching W14 again had problems with balance and traction.
“We’re not where we wanted to be yet, but it’s a good platform to start from,” Hamilton said.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas finished third, 0.52 seconds behind Perez, ahead of Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc (who led the morning session) and Carlos Sainz Jr.
“We finished the test without any problems and completed the full run plan,” said Leclerc.
Perez drove all day and completed 133 laps. Bottas recorded his 131 laps. Only Alex Albon clocked his 136 laps at Williams, while seven-time F1 champion Hamilton clocked his 65.
As the temperature dropped under the floodlights of the desert track, the time changed sharply.
Hamilton overtook the Ferrari before Perez surged and Bottas pushed the Ferrari down.
Leclerc is one of F1’s most dedicated drivers, spending the final minutes on the pit wall perusing time charts and other information on his headphones.
“I will concentrate on analyzing the data to go into the first GP of the year as well prepared as possible,” said Leclerc, who has won five career races. “I’m looking forward to racing here next week.”
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda qualified sixth ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen. George Russell, who drove in the Mercedes in the morning, was eighth.
With Lance Stroll still sidelined with a wrist injury sustained in a bicycle accident, Aston Martin once again fielded F2 champion Felipe Dolgovic. He was his tenth behind teammate Fernando his Alonso.
It was unclear if Stroll would recover in time for next weekend’s race, and Alonso gave no indication.
“No news,” said the two-time F1 champion. “It’s a personal matter.”
There was a brief red flag a few minutes into the morning start after some debris, believed to be Perez’s RB19, was cleared from the track.
A second red flag came out when Bottas parked in the run-off area. His teammate Guanyu Zhou topped the second day of testing, showing promising pace and reliability for Alfa Romeo.
Tests provide a rough guide to your team’s velocity. Cars are often set up or slowed down very differently.
But McLaren Chief Executive Zak Brown said on Friday he feels his team is falling short of its planned targets.
Brown would have had little relief when Australian driver Oscar Piastri had a big spin on the track, but he quickly recovered. was 16th.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Piastri, who was cleared to drive for McLaren last year after a contract dispute with Alpine.