AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly had the fastest time in Formula One pre-season testing on Thursday, where much focus was on the new-look Mercedes car and American team Haas missing the morning start after some of its equipment didn’t arrive on time.
Gasly clocked 1 minute, 33.9 seconds on the 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) desert track in Sakhir. The session under floodlights ended a few minutes early with a red flag, after Red Bull driver Sergio Perez got stuck in a gravel trap.
Gasly was ahead of Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was 11th in the sleeker Mercedes W13.
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel raced in a white helmet with “No War” written on one side and a dove of peace on the other, amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The Mercedes car has attracted attention because it has much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago. The triangular slit for the radiator inlets could improve airflow by providing a higher cooling speed, and thus improving downforce.
Team principal Toto Wolff said there were no issues and that the design had been given the all-clear by governing body FIA.
“We are really proud of what we have achieved in terms of concept,” he said. “But now we need to make it go fast. I think it’s a development direction that we like, and it’s about tuning the car and so we are experimenting a lot.”
Haas, which recently fired Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and dropped its Russian sponsor Uralkali, did not run in the morning because a freight delivery problem meant their cars weren’t ready. Haas got reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi out in the afternoon.
“We finally got going today after all the delays with the freight,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said. “The team did a fantastic job to get the car ready to go out after having 36 hours less than all other teams. We got out just for the afternoon session, but we need to make it up in the next days.”
Given the delays, Haas could be given extra testing time in the evenings. Testing continues Friday and Saturday.
Haas has hired Danish driver Kevin Magnussen to replace Mazepin, having fired him at the end of 2020.
Earlier Thursday, F1’s managing director Ross Brawn was among those expressing surprise at the new Mercedes design.
“There are some very extreme interpretations of the regulations which could lead to a lot of debate,” he told F1 TV. “We did not anticipate the Mercedes concept.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was also a bit puzzled.
“We were not expecting that. We always said the mirror should have no aero purpose and the way they treated their car, there is a significant aero purpose in the mirrors,” he said. “The risk in the future is all teams will start designing mirrors that look like space ships. In the spirit of what we intend to do for the future, it is something we need to discuss.”
Red Bull distanced itself from reports it was unhappy about the new-look Mercedes.
“We have made no official comment regarding Mercedes’ car and will not be doing so,” the team said in a statement. Red Bull’s Christian Horner is scheduled to be in a team principals news conference on Friday.
For anything to be changed to cars during the season, eight of the 10 teams must agree as well as F1 and governing body FIA.
The season starts on March 20 in Bahrain.
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