Verstappen lights up the timing screens while Mercedes struggle in the sandstorm

The first day of pre-season testing for the 2021 Formula One season is over and Red Bull are going into the season as the team to beat, well at least according to the timesheets.

As with every year, testing needs a disclaimer that we do not know the full programmes that teams are running, with different tyres, fuel loads and setups being trailed because it’s only testing.

It was a difficult day for reigning World Champions Mercedes, who are attempting to win a record-breaking eight World Constructor’s titles in a row. It took some time for the Brackley based team to get any meaningful running after they had to change the gearbox and only got Valtteri Bottas out on track for the final half an hour of the session.

Mick Schumacher didn’t have much luck with the reliability of his HAAS car after a hydraulics issue meant that he could only manage 15 laps in his new car.

A sandstorm arrived for the afternoon session, and while teams may have opted not to take part if the usual eight days were in place, the three days of running left them with little choice. Lewis Hamilton, who was trying to make up for lost time from the morning session, struggled to keep his W12 on track and had multiple lock-ups ruining his run.

Max Verstappen took his Red Bull to the top of the timing sheets with a 1:30.674 on his C3 tyres, with McLaren’s Lando Norris 0.2 seconds behind on the same compound. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was fastest on the C4 compound, 0.4 seconds behind the Red Bull.

Pirelli was running a test compound of tyres and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll set the fastest time of the day on this compound but was 1.8 seconds behind Verstappen. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo made up the next three positions.

Rounding out the top were the Alpha Tauri pair of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, with reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton ending a difficult day in tenth place.

There were seven other drivers who took part over the course of the day; Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Roy Nissany (Williams), Nikita Mazepin, Mick Schumacher (both HAAS) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).

The four drivers who didn’t get to drive today will be in the over the weekend, with Fernando Alonso taking his Alpine car to the track tomorrow alongside Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. George Russell will be the final driver of the class of 2021 to drive his new challenger in testing with him having to wait until Sunday to do just that.

The second day of testing kicks off at 7 am UK Time tomorrow and will be live on Sky Sports F1 in the United Kingdom.