Max second after opening day of Sakhir GP: 'It is what it is'

Published on 04 December 2020 by Stefan Meens

Max Verstappen finished the first day of the Sakhir Grand Prix in second place. Quickest around the alternative track configuration of the Bahrain International Circuit, was George Russell in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Sergio Perez completed the top three in the Racing point.

“Looking at the balance, we haven’t yet found the optimal set-up”, revealed Max after free practice. “Especially in the short runs, we’re lacking. The long runs aren’t too bad but we can still improve.”

The Dutchman continued: “We had understeer, oversteer and traction issues so there are a few things to focus on. It’s not the most exciting track to be honest. Because it’s so short, the radio is constantly on warning you for traffic. It’s not what you want, as especially in the second sector it’s a bit dangerous as it’s mostly blind corners."

“I tried to follow a couple cars; it’s easy to pass the slower ones, but as soon as you try to overtake a car that’s within three tenths of your pace, it’s pretty difficult.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend, Max said: “Valtteri’s time was deleted but we’re trailing three and a half tenths, which is quite a bit. We’ll have to find some pace for qualifying and we’ll have to improve some more in the race to be competitive.”


When the lights at the end of the pitlane go green, Pietro Fittipaldi comes straight out on track. After a few minutes, the Brazilian is accompanied by both Alfa Romeo’s. Fittipaldi is the first to set a time, which both Alfa’s promptly improve on. Not much later we seen both McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris take the lead.

Like in the first session, the Red Bulls are not in a hurry to enter the fray. Also at Mercedes there is no movement. In the meantime, Sebastian Vettel destroys a set of tyres when spinning in turn two. Not much later Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc reports something has broken. The Monegasque is only just able to make it back to the pits with what seems to be a problem with his drive shaft.

After 24 minutes we see Max to come out on track for the first time this session. In his first flying lap he jumps to first position on a set of mediums. After 33 minutes Max returns to the pits. He is still in first position ahead of Esteban Ocon, Albon and Valtteri Bottas. Right before the Dutchman reported that he still suffered from the same problem he had last week. The car jumps by exiting the first corner.

After just under 40 minutes we see the first drivers come out on the red tyres to do some qualifying simulations. Sergio Perez goes to P1 and Vettel spins for the second time. Kevin Magnussen is very close and is only just able to avoid the German. While Max is in the pits, Esteban Ocon takes P2. Not much later Bottas takes P1, putting Max back into P4.

Meanwhile Max left the pits on a new set of soft tyres. Bottas time is deleted because of exceeding track limits. Max breaks off his quick lap on the soft for the same reason. As Russell takes P1, the Dutchman does a second attempt in which he improves and takes second position. Both Red Bulls complain over the radio about understeer in the RB16.

It looks like teams focus on racing simulations ending new quick lap times. Ferrari confirms that Leclerc will not come out again this session. Max starts his racing simulations on a set of used softs. “I do not understand why I am suddenly so slow”, says the Dutchman over the radio.

In the final phase of the session it is busy on track. Only Leclerc and Lando Norris are in the pits. Bottas and Vettel continue to battle their cars. The Finn and the German stack mistake after mistake. Max seems to be more content on the medium tyres shown by his lap times. As expected there are no further improvements of lap times when the session ends.

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Results second free practice Sakhir:

1George RussellRUSMercedes54.713 48
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda54.841+0.128s43
3Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes54.866+0.153s52
4Esteban OconOCORenault54.940+0.227s50
5Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda55.036+0.323s42
6Daniil KvyatKVYAlphaTauri Honda55.068+0.355s58
7Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes55.104+0.391s44
8Daniel RicciardoRICRenault55.124+0.411s47
9Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda55.133+0.420s48
10Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault55.258+0.545s39
11Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes55.321+0.608s52
12Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari55.484+0.771s54
13Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari55.533+0.820s57
14Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari55.738+1.025s49
15Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes55.784+1.071s52
16Sebastian VettelVETFerrari55.830+1.117s43
17Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault56.031+1.318s14
18Pietro FittipaldiFITHaas Ferrari56.110+1.397s56
19Jack AitkenAITWilliams Mercedes56.260+1.547s58
20Charles LeclercLECFerrari---2