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  • Writer's pictureToni Sokolov

Bahrain GP 2024: FP2 Race Pace Analysis

Bahrain GP 2024 - FP2 McLaren
Photo credit: Pirelli Media

Pre-season is over and now it's time for the first proper race weekend of the year! Bahrain is a both pre-season testing venue and the first race on the F1 calendar. After the first FP2, we can see some trends and confirmations from pre-season testing about the favorites for the first part of the season!

The first FP2 of the year was very calm, without any incidents or anything that would disturb the program of the teams. Bahrain track was a bit cooler over the first two sessions, with only 17 degrees in the air and the track being at chilly 21-22 degrees Celsius. This makes it a bit different as it can affect the performance of a lot of teams due to the weather not being this cold during the pre-season test. This FP2 was great for us, as we got almost everyone on the same C3 tyres at the same time.

From the FP2 we can see that Red Bull is looking like a Saturday favorite to win the race. Their tyre management looked much better and more consistent than their competitors were able to do. During their race simulations not only did they manage the tyres much better than the others, but they did it - quicker. On average it looks like they had a 0.3-0.4 tenths advantage over the Ferrari, Mercedes, and the rest of the challengers. Verstappen was averaging 1:36.715 with Perez being about tenths and a half slower than him on the same tyres.

Bahrain GP 2024 - FP2
Photo credit: Pirelli Media

The closest competitor was surprisingly - Piastri with his McLaren! He was averaging 1:36.868! So he wasn't much slower than Max in the Red Bull! Most of the pace came with a more aggressive start to his race simulation as he was pushing low 1:36s in the first 3-4 laps with a worse tyre deg at the end of the stint. For example, Max takes it a bit easier and manages to stay consistent during his whole stint. Verstappen started his stint with 1:37.0 and finished with...1:37.0 which just shows that Max has a reserve in its speed and can deploy more if needed. This is why the gap will be bigger come the race day. Lando Norris confirmed the pace that McLaren showed with Piastri by averaging 1:37.082!

Nonetheless, it looks like McLaren made a good turnaround from the somewhat mediocre Bahrain test and overall their boogey track to a proper competitor for the podium spot with Ferrari and Mercedes! George Russell and Lewis Hamilton pushed a bit more than expected during their quali simulations setting the top 1-2 lap times, but this needs to be taken with a bit of a handbrake. Ferrari and Red Bull didn't push their engines as much as Mercedes did, and fuel weight is unknown. We can see that in the slower parts, Ferrari and Red Bull matched Mercedes but lost time in the 1st and 3rd sectors of the track where the power is more important. Times will tumble today.

Back to Mercedes and their race pace, Russell looked quick but struggled at the end with tyre deg as did his colleague Hamilton. Interestingly, Hamilton did start his race simulation a bit slower (like Verstappen), but it didn't help him much at the end as Russell who pushed was still going quicker. Russell averaged 1:37.022 which puts him 4th and Hamilton averaged about 0.2 slower at 1:37.217, which puts him 7th on the chart.

Next up, Ferrari. They looked solid, but never like the car that was dialed in. A lot of sliding on the rear, and lock-ups for Leclerc on his quali simulations. The car didn't look like it had a proper setup. Also, Leclerc possibly run with a bit less downforce or more engine mode as he consistently had a 3-4 kph advantage on speed traps over Carlos Sainz. In their race simulation, they looked - okay. It felt like they were being very careful on softer tyres, but from the testing, we know that Ferrari looked much quicker on C2 and C1 tyres. Leclerc averaged 1:37.124 and Sainz 1:37.269, which puts them P6 and P8 on our charts. Much to improve on their setup and they have left some performance with fuel and engine modes.

Alonso looked very competitive but with a shorter stint than those of RBR, Ferrari, and Mercedes. He averaged 1:37.292, on par with Carlos Sainz and the group in front. They don't look like they can compete for a podium, but Aston Marting built another solid car that Alonso can bring up to the solid points finish every weekend. Stroll looked about half a second slower, which is disappointing but not surprising.

The last team in today's analysis is Alpine which looks like a team in a lot of trouble. Drivers looked worried after the pre-season testing and their race simulation looked bad. Tyre deg looked okay, on par with others (except Red Bull), but the pace isn't there at all to compete for even a Top 10 finish and points. They could be jumped by Racing Bulls and Williams at the start of the season, and the Enstone team needs to find some answers to these issues.

Today, FP3 won't be too relevant due to much different conditions, and teams will use it as another test session, but quali later today will be exciting as we can see that 4-5 drivers could be fighting for the pole!

Bahrain GP 2024 - FP2 Race simulations
FP2 Race simulations by Toni Sokolov

Bahrain GP 2024 - FP2 (Classification, Maximum speeds, Best sector times)


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