until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Explaining how Sainz and Alonso denied Verstappen in final practice

by Ben Anderson
3 min read

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz set the pace in the final practice session for Formula 1’s 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, ahead of world champions Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen, as little more than six tenths of a second covered the top 14 cars.

Final practice is usually devoted to qualifying simulations on the softest tyre, as it’s the last chance to refine the set-up and get a read on the tyres before Q1, but the picture here is skewed slightly by Red Bull running slightly offset to the rest.

Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez ran the hardest C1 compound tyre in the first part of the session, while everyone else ran the softest C3 Pirellis.

The pace order in that early segment was as follows:

First soft tyre runs

1 Alonso 1m31.582s
2 Russell 1m31.821s
3 Leclerc 1m32.025s 
4 Tsunoda 1m32.161s 
5 Sainz 1m32.202s 
6 Stroll 1m32.282s
7 Magnussen 1m32.440s
8 Albon 1m32.495s
9 Norris 1m32.611s
10 Hamilton 1m32.733s
11 Ricciardo 1m32.772s
12 Ocon 1m33.003s
13 Hulkenberg 1m33.015s
14 Sargeant 1m33.079s
15 Bottas 1m33.090s
16 Gasly 1m33.112s
17 Piastri 1m33.273s
18 Zhou 1m33.454s

Alonso ran slightly later than the other frontrunners, but only needed one timed lap to put his Aston Martin straight to the top of the timesheet.

Mercedes driver George Russell’s single timed lap came at a comparable time to the Ferraris, so is quite representative as a like-for-like - though it should be noted the Ferraris needed a second timed lap on the same set of tyres to do their fastest times, so didn’t quite have the best of the rubber in the way Russell did.

RB’s Yuki Tsunoda was artificially high in this segment on account of a second timed lap set much later than everyone else's.

Conversely, Lewis Hamilton was first on track so his single flier was unrepresentative of his pace for the opposite reason.

Alpine’s drivers were both on-track late and still quite slow, even with the benefit of track improvement. 

The Red Bulls fitted soft tyres for the final part of the session, but then ran slightly earlier than others, so didn’t quite have the best of the track, as well as not taking the benefit of earlier banker laps on that compound.

The order was as follows:

Later soft tyre runs

1 Sainz 1m30.824s
2 Alonso 1m30.965s
3 Verstappen 1m31.062s
4 Leclerc 1m31.094s
5 Norris 1m31.118s
6 Russell 1m31.190s
7 Piastri 1m31.210s
8 Perez 1m31.248s
9 Hulkenberg 1m31.278s
10 Stroll 1m31.396s
11 Ricciardo 1m31.449s
12 Hamilton 1m31.452s
13 Tsunoda 1m31.631s
14 Magnussen 1m31.671s
15 Albon 1m31.965s
16 Zhou 1m32.000s
17 Bottas 1m32.096s
18 Ocon 1m32.124s
19 Sargeant 1m32.125s
20 Gasly 1m32.382s

Sainz and Alonso both impressively nailed single timed laps in this segment, where both Red Bulls did two timed laps on this set where the second lap was slower than the first.

Maybe Verstappen is under threat for pole, though we still can't be sure the Red Bull is running as light or as powerfully as it could.

It also looked to have quite a bit of understeer dialled in. Maybe that will need to stay to help protect the rear tyres on race day, but Verstappen will probably also be looking for some set-up adjustments before qualifying that couldn't be done between runs in FP3, on account of Red Bull's offset tyre run plan.

Leclerc had a snap of oversteer at Turn 4 on his best lap, while Hamilton ran wide at the same corner on his fastest lap, before having another stab on the same set of tyres which was half a second slower than his underwhelming best effort.

He cannot say he did a clean lap at any stage.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas was impressively inside the top 10, ahead of both RBs.

Alex Albon’s best time came very early in the second segment, around the same time as the Red Bulls, so there could be more to come from him and Williams.

Similarly, the Saubers didn’t enjoy the absolute best of the track, but weren’t so early on their later runs to account for the four tenths gap to Kevin Magnussen’s Haas (whose best lap was on his second flier after aborting the first).

Alpine again enjoyed the better end of the track conditions but it seems that car heads into qualifying as the overwhelming favourite to exit in Q1.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks