Following a positive run of form for the Ferrari driver, Pierre Gasly is now leading the championship after his Mercedes took pole position in qualifying. The Frenchman will start from second on Sunday and has been enjoying success with an updated power unit that’s significantly less aggressive than team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s.

The “pierre gasly sister” is a headline that was stolen by the Mercedes team. Pierre Gasly had to settle for second place.

Pierre Gasly quickest but radical Mercedes upgrades steals headlines

Bahrain’s capital, Sakhir, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the first day of this week’s preseason test in Bahrain, Pierre Gasly posted the quickest time, but it was Mercedes who caught everyone’s attention with a big change to their vehicle.

Gasly scored the quickest time of the day in his AlphaTauri with the softest compound tyre, placing him 0.457s ahead of his closest challenger. The time was made on a single lap, on the C5 tyre compound, after the sun had set and track conditions were at their finest, and it had all the signs of a low-fuel effort.

On paper, the distance to second-placed Carlos Sainz seems large, but it is simply explained by the Ferrari’s use of a two-step tougher tyre compound. The softer the compound, the more grip the tyre has when fresh, but the faster it loses that grip. In typical settings, performance disparities across compounds are predicted to be worth 0.5s.

Using the same C3 tyre compound as his teammate, Charles Leclerc, who drove the Ferrari in the morning before turning it over to Sainz at lunch, achieved the third quickest time. Lance Stroll was fourth quickest, 0.2 seconds slower and running on the C5 compound, ahead of Alex Albon in the Williams, who was running on the C4s. Sergio Perez, who was 10th quickest in the Red Bull on C3s, spun at modest speed and beached his car in the gravel on the exit of Turn 8. The practice finished a few minutes early.

However, without the context of fuel loads and engine settings, lap times alone may be deceiving, and instead, the attention in the paddock was on the Mercedes’ new appearance. In Bahrain, the car’s sidepods received a major and visible update, with narrower outlets and a full separation between the side-impact crash structure and the sidepod itself.

The design sparked immediate legal concerns, but Mercedes is convinced that its discussions with the FIA throughout the car’s development ensured that the governing body will decide in its favor if the design is challenged.

However, early signs suggest that Mercedes has a long way to go in terms of extracting performance from their vehicle. The W13 continued to suffer with porpoising – a problem that afflicted all teams during the first test in Barcelona (link to article) – and both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell seemed to have issues with the vehicle under braking.

The Mercedes’ innovative sidepod is unlike anything else on the F1 field this year. Getty Images/Dan Istitene/Formula 1/Formula 1

“We’re incredibly happy of what we’ve done in terms of idea with the vehicle,” team manager Toto Wolff said. “But now we need to make it run fast.” “It’s a path of growth that we appreciate.” It’s all about fine-tuning the vehicle. We’re doing a lot of testing and approaching it with a lot of interest.

“There are Bahrain-specific concerns; it’s hot, and the cars are bouncing on the straights and in the bends, so it’s a tuning matter, and we haven’t looked at the performance data yet.”

Hamilton, who led the way in the morning, ended 11th quickest, while teammate Russell, who took over in the afternoon, was ninth fastest. On the C3 tyre compound, both drivers posted their quickest laps.

As a consequence of its freight being delayed on its arrival to Bahrain, the Haas F1 team missed the morning practice. With reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi at the wheel, the team managed to get their car out on track for 47 laps during the afternoon practice.

Because the freight delay was caused by a Formula One charter experiencing mechanical troubles, Haas is likely to recover the four hours of running it lost on Thursday morning back later in the week. To make up for lost time, Haas will run two hours later into the night on the second and third days of the test, although the parameters have yet to be determined.

Day one’s final times:

1. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly – 1:33.902 – 103 laps 2. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – 1:34.359 – 82 laps 3. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – 1:34.531 – 64 laps 4. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin – 50 laps in 1:34.736 5. Alex Albon – Williams – 104 laps in 1:35.070 6. Lando Norris – McLaren – 50 laps in 1:35.356 Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo – 1:35.495 – 66 laps 7. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo – 1:35.495 – 66 laps Aston Martin – Sebastian Vettel – 1:35.706 – 39 laps 9. George Russell – Mercedes – 60 laps in 1:35.941 Sergio Perez – Red Bull – 1:35.977 – 138 laps 10. Sergio Perez – Red Bull – 1:35.977 – 138 laps Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:36.365 – 62 laps 11. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:36.365 – 62 laps Fernando Alonso – Alpine – 1:36.745 – 24 laps 12. Fernando Alonso – Alpine – 1:36.745 – 24 laps Esteban Ocon – Alpine – 1:36.768 – 42 laps 13. Esteban Ocon – Alpine – 1:36.768 – 42 laps Guanyu Zhou – Alfa Romeo – 1:37.164 – 54 laps 14. Guanyu Zhou – Alfa Romeo – 1:37.164 – 54 laps Pietro Fittipaldi – Haas – 1:37.422 – 47 laps 15. Pietro Fittipaldi – Haas – 1:37.422 – 47 laps

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