Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon both occupied places in the top 10 in Free Practice 1, while in the second session, held in the evening, Daniel slotted in fifth and Esteban eleventh on their low fuel Soft tyre runs.
Heavy rain overnight in the region came as a surprise with the track drying in time for the afternoon’s first practice. Today’s programme consisted of some early aero evaluations with rakes fitted to the Renault R.S.20 as well as mandatory assessments of Pirelli’s 2021 tyre range.
That work on the prototype tyres crossed over between FP1 and FP2, in between the usual Friday programme aimed at learning the tyre compounds for the weekend, which are a step softer from last season at the same track. FP2 was interrupted by red flags: one for a crash for Alexander Albon, the other for a loose dog running on track. With some disruption, the team rounded off Friday with high fuel running on Softs for Daniel and Mediums for Esteban in preparation for Sunday’s race.
We made some good improvements throughout the day and we’re prepared for the rest of the weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s really nice to be driving in warm conditions, so I’m very happy. Our afternoon session wasn’t anything spectacular but, in the evening, we made some adjustments and we’re in a much better place, so I’d say we’re there or thereabouts. It will be tight tomorrow in qualifying. The tyres are going to get pretty chewed up around here, so a two-stop is likely and that would be the first one in the dry we’ve seen in a while. We did some race simulations in Free Practice 2 and we’re looking fairly solid.”
Esteban Ocon: “It’s been a good, first day overall in Bahrain. We had a busy plan for the day with some prototype tyre running in preparation for next year, so it was a different kind of practice day and different conditions to normal here with a bit of rain this morning. We got into our normal programme towards the afternoon, but that was interrupted a bit with the red flags. Our programme was delayed and disrupted but, other than that, we look quick and that’s a good sign for tomorrow. Our high fuel runs also looked decent and I think we’re well prepared for the rest of the weekend.”
Ciaron Pilbeam, Chief Race Engineer: “It was unusually cool in Bahrain, especially for Free Practice 1, which, with the time of day, often takes place under scorching conditions. But, with the weather front overnight, which brought some rain, the conditions throughout the day remained cool; similar to what we normally experience in the evening in Sakhir. Both sessions were more busy than usual with the mandatory 2021 tyre testing, and FP2 was interrupted by a couple of red flags, but we improved throughout the day and by Free Practice 2 both drivers felt more comfortable in the car on both low and high fuel runs. As normal, there’s more to come, but we’re pleased with today’s practice and we look forward to the remainder of the weekend.”