Photo: FIA

Russell Quickest in Bahrain Practice on First Outing with Mercedes


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 tires 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 tires, 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. 

2020 FIA Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 
1 George Russell Mercedes 54.546 49 233.835
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 54.722 0.176 29 233.083
3 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 54.811 0.265 18 232.705
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 54.868 0.322 44 232.463
5 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 55.011 0.465 40 231.859
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 55.166 0.620 37 231.207
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 55.273 0.727 49 230.760
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 55.281 0.735 40 230.726
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55.379 0.833 39 230.318
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 55.449 0.903 35 230.027
11 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 55.558 1.012 41 229.576
12 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 55.716 1.170 33 228.925
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 55.757 1.211 41 228.756
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 55.783 1.237 32 228.650
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 55.858 1.312 35 228.343
16 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 56.078 1.532 47 227.447
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 56.130 1.584 37 227.236
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 56.764 2.218 48 224.698
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas/Ferrari 57.077 2.531 24 223.466
20 Jack Aitken Williams/Mercedes 57.187 2.641 33 223.036

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