Perez fastest in Bahrain GP FP1 as Aston Martin continues to impress; Ferrari down the order

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Sergio Perez started his third season with Red Bull on the front foot, as the Mexican set the fastest time of the first free practice session of the year. He was followed by the Aston Martin of the Fernando Alonso, who continued to impress in Bahrain. Ferrari and Mercedes had difficult sessions.

Photo Credits: Oracle Red Bull Racing

Formula One finally got back underway in Bahrain as the first free practice session started. With the sun beating down on the Sakhir circuit in conditions very different to those of qualifying and the race, the three rookies for the season – Nyck de Vries, Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant – were the first ones out on track.

With a time of 1:35.048 on the medium tyres, Fernando Alonso set the early pace in the first five minutes of the session.

Oscar Piastri had an early scare in his first few laps as he suffered from oversteer in his McLaren at turn seven, recovering his car successfully without any major dramas.

Another rookie, Logan Sargeant reported he “could smell something burning” during his first lap, but it didn’t translate to any problems for the American driver.

With a third of the session gone, the top five consisted of Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and Max Verstappen.

The first runners on the soft tyres were the Haas cars of Hulkenberg and Magnussenz with the latter jumping up to the top four positions.

With almost half of the session gone, Lance Stroll was yet to set a lap time, after returning from a wrist injury and surgery. Aston Martin was working hard to fix an issue on the right side of the Canadian’s AMR23.

At the half point, the Red Bull’s went to the soft tyres, with Sergio Perez improving to a 1:32.758, over six-tenth faster than his team-mate Max Verstappen, on the same tyres.

With 25 minutes on the clock, Lance Stroll set his first timed lap, albeit 4.7s off the pace, the Canadian didn’t seem to have any problem whilst driving.

Carlos Sainz had a big moment as he spun his SF23 on the run to turn 10, dramatically losing control of his car but managed to get back on track without hitting any barriers. He reported on the radio that the “ride was poor”.

With just a quarter of the session left, the top five consisted of Perez, Verstappen, Norris, Zhou and Bottas.

But that order was soon dispatched as Fernando Alonso put down an impressive time in his Aston Martin, as he set a soft tyre lap that was just under half-a-second slower than pace-setter Sergio Perez and ahead of Max Verstappen.

Lance Stroll’s first flying lap on the soft tyres put the Canadian up to sixth, with just under five minutes of the session to go. And whilst he was over a second adrift of his team-mate, there seemed to be no concerns over his physical fitness, which is a good sign for him.

Expected to be Red Bull’s main challengers this season, Ferrari and Mercedes endured a somewhat difficult session, with Carlos Sainz finishing bottom of the times after his dramatic spin into turn 10. Charles Leclerc had a smoother session but ended up P5, one-and-a-half seconds off Perez’s pace.

Lewis Hamilton finished in P10, with his team-mate George Russell close behind in P11, albeit both on medium tyres compared to the softs for most of the top ten.