Ricciardo puts RB on top in Bahrain GP F1 FP1 ahead of Norris and Piastri; Verstappen down in sixth

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool
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Daniel Ricciardo put an impressive performance in for RB F1 to lead the very first free practice session of the season, just ahead of the two McLaren cars of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, with Yuki Tsunoda completing a strong showing from the Faenza squad with P4. Max Verstappen struggled with the downshifts in his Red Bull throughout the session and finished in a lowly sixth place, although he did not run the soft tyres.

The 2024 Formula 1 season got underway with first practice for the Bahrain GP taking place in sunny and windy conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Several drivers joined the track straight as the light went green at the end of the pit lane, including Zhou Guanyu in his Sauber – but the Chinese had to come back into the pits with a brake issue.

McLaren warned Lando Norris about some “very strong” wind gusts as the session started. Charles Leclerc suffered an oversteer snap as the tail winds hit his Ferrari heading into turn four, demonstrating the impacts of the heavy gusts.

After the first 10 minutes of running, Carlos Sainz led Lewis Hamilton and George Russell with a time of a 1:34.544 on the medium tyres, but Max Verstappen quickly demolished that time with a 1:33.900 in his very first flying lap of the session, also on the mediums. He was closely followed by his team-mate Sergio Perez, who set a time just 0.084s slower than the Dutchman – who was still unhappy with the balance in his RB20, saying everything was “miles off” in his car balance through the lap.

Zhou Guanyu returned to the track after 15 minutes in the pits, with his brake issues seemingly resolved.

With a third of the session gone, the classified order of the top 10 was: Verstappen, Russell, Perez, Hamilton, Alonso, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo – all on the medium tyres, with 1.1 seconds separating P1 to P10.

Despote improving his time again to a 1:33.535, the Dutchman reported to his team over the radio he was suffering with “very bad downshifts” and his car “literally jumping”.

The two Haas cars struggled to slow down heading into turn 10, with both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen locking up down the tight right-hander.

After a bit of a lull on the track as the session neared its halfway point, Oscar Piastri bolted on a set of soft tyres in his McLaren and went straight to the top of the timings, with a 1:33.113 getting the Australian over four tenths clear of Verstappen’s previous best time.

He was soon followed by his team-mate Lando Norris, who set a time of a 1:32.901 on the soft tyres, just over two tenths clear of Piastri.

The two RB cars impressed with their runs on the soft tyres, with Daniel Ricciardo going fastest of all with a time of a 1:32.869, and Yuki Tsunoda in fourth, just over three tenths down.

With a quarter of the session remaining, the order of the top 10 was as follows: Ricciardo, Norris, Piastri, Tsunoda, Verstappen, Russell, Leclerc, Hamilton, Bottas and Sainz.

Alpine’s woes from pre-season testing were pretty much confirmed in this first practice session, with the car looking nervous out on track with an unsettled balance, which Ocon described over the radio as “inconsistent”, to which his team replied is related to the wind.

Fernando Alonso set the best time of those who were on the medium tyres with just under 10 minutes of the session remaining, and went fifth fastest with a time of a 1:33.193.

Lance Stroll wasn’t satisfied with the balance in his AMR24, calling it “super snappy” and “horrendous” over the radio.

Down in sixth place, Verstappen continued to report issues with the downshifts in his RB20 as the session neared its ending.

The final classification of the top 10 for the first practice session of the year was as follows: Ricciardo, Norris, Piastri, Tsunoda, Alonso, Verstappen, Russell, Leclerc, Hamilton and Bottas.

Outside of the top 10, the order was: Sainz, Perez, Albon, Stroll, Zhou, Sargeant, Ocon, Gasly, Magnussen and Hulkenberg rounding out the field.