Wednesday, March 29

Sainz takes the role of favorite with Ferrari and the ‘Alpink’ raises doubts

Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, in Bahrain. / EP


The man from Madrid finished first in the group session, although he was second in the final time table on the penultimate day of training in Bahrain

The penultimate day of the 2022 Formula 1 pre-season in Bahrain confirmed Ferrari’s awkward role as favourite. Not so much because of his position in the time table, which was initially first and ended up being second for Carlos Sainz after Kevin Magnussen snatched the best time of the day from him in the extra hour of rehearsals that he enjoyed, but because of his own feelings . The red car works. Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso… the drivers of weight on the grid place the F1-75 as the single-seater that starts with a certain prevalence over the rest, something that the Scuderia insists on denying.

The pre-season tests can be perfectly compared to a game of poker, in which going very strong can be a sign that they really do not have good cards in hand and in which covering up can be synonymous that there is a lot of margin saved in the pocket. But if the final classification of a day of preseason does not give a reliable sample of reality, it does not hide it completely either.

Carlos Sainz was the fastest (initially) of the afternoon after achieving a lap in which he overtook Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen themselves, who tried to make a good lap with softer tires than those of the Madrid native. Ferrari is fast and reliable, since if the Spaniard did 60 laps in the afternoon session, his teammate Charles Leclerc completed 54 in a morning plagued with incidents that did not allow him to do all that was planned. The red car is holding up, it’s fast and it has room to try different setups now. Obviously it is early to put the laurel wreath on it, but it already starts much better than others.

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And it is that among the several teams that had problems this Friday was Alpine. The Anglo-French team debuted the pink livery that they will wear at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia races, the first two of the season, and initially gave it a good result. In fact, Esteban Ocon was the fastest in the morning and completed a good bag of laps. After the hydraulic leaks on Thursday, everything that was racking up turns and getting data was the goal above all else. The feeling was that what was seen the day before was going to remain a distant memory when Ocon crossed the 100-lap border… until he failed again.

Again a hydraulic leak

As he entered his 104th lap, he was warned from the pits to stop immediately. The engine was doing strange things, the gears weren’t going well and they risked breaking down like the one Fernando Alonso suffered on the last day of the Montmeló rehearsals. Ocon stopped and the car was towed back into the pits, causing the third red flag of the day. Concerned faces, Alonso included (he was on the wall following the day), and to disassemble the car again. For almost an hour they were with the engine cover removed, readjusting the power unit again: the failure of the previous day had been reproduced. Again it was a hydraulic leak that forced them to stop. Once the lost fluid was removed, Ocon was able to rejoin the track to complete a total of 111 laps on the day, but with a relatively bittersweet feeling.

Despite everything, Alpine cannot say that this Friday was a bad day. Quite the opposite: it was his best day of the preseason so far. The pink car completed many more laps than Williams, whose car went up in flames (literally) due to a brake drum problem. Latifi had to reach for the fire extinguisher and everything. Vettel also saw how his Aston Martin stopped in the middle of the track, while McLaren continues with its ‘horribilis’ tests. With Daniel Ricciardo sick, Lando Norris starred in one of the pictures of the day as he was forced to push the MCL36 himself after it stalled at the pitlane exit.

All these failures, especially in a preseason in which the cars are totally new, were foreseeable. The problem for the candidates is that the big favorites do not fail. At the moment, neither Hamilton nor Verstappen have suffered breakdowns or serious problems. They met on the track for the first time, and this time they respected each other… although perhaps in the war they have (and will have) a third combatant will come into play. Both Sainz and Leclerc are showing that, perhaps, Ferrari should be taken into account.

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