Gearbox glitch for Mercedes as Ricciardo goes top in testing

12 March 2021 - 11:36 By Reuters
Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during the first day of F1 testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12 2021 in Bahrain.
Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during the first day of F1 testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12 2021 in Bahrain.
Image: Joe Portlock/Getty Images

Champions Mercedes managed only six laps by lunchtime due to a gearbox problem while McLaren's new signing Daniel Ricciardo set the pace in Formula One's first pre-season test in Bahrain on Friday.

The Sakhir circuit is hosting three days of testing, half the amount the 10 teams were allocated last year at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, before the opening race in the Gulf kingdom on March 28.

"Going to have to keep you waiting a little longer for a proper look at W12," Mercedes said on Twitter before their car had set a time and with Finland's Valtteri Bottas completing only an installation lap.

"We have a gearshift problem and are swapping the gearbox to get back out on track for our first real run. Better to have this lap one of testing, rather than lap one of race one."

Mercedes, chasing an unprecedented eighth successive title double this year with Britain's Lewis Hamilton aiming for his record eighth, were last on the timesheets.

Hamilton was in the car for the afternoon, when a sandstorm blew in to make life more difficult.

Ricciardo topped the morning in one minute 32.203 seconds, completing 45 laps in a car that has switched from Renault to Mercedes power, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly second and getting 74 laps under his belt.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc brought out red flags 10 minutes before the lunchtime break when his car stopped on track. He was fifth fastest.

Haas had hydraulic problems, with rookie Mick Schumacher managing only 15 laps and ninth fastest.

With all launches conducted remotely and some teams publishing only edited digital images, the opening session saw the cars finally running in full view of the cameras in their new liveries.

The session was a first for Alpine, the renamed Renault team, and marked Aston Martin's return as a constructor for the first time since 1960.

Many lenses will be trained on the new Mercedes after technical director James Allison acknowledged at the launch that they were hiding some floor details.

"There’s a bunch of aerodynamic detail that we are not quite ready to release to the world...we don’t want our competitors to see it, we don’t want them trying to put similar things into their windtunnels," he had said.

The main focus of testing is to confirm reliability and add performance, although with many parts carried over from 2020 the emphasis this year is more on the latter.


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