As the afternoon session in Day 1 of the F1 winter test reaches its halfway mark, Max Verstappen in his Red Bull leads the way followed by the morning pacesetter Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen who has completed a staggering 94 laps between the morning and afternoon sessions set a lap time of 1.31.412 second which is, thus far, the quickest time of the day. Ricciardo’s lap time of 1:32.203 from earlier in the day remains the second fastest with Gasly currently in third position.
There was excitement as Yuki Tsunoda took to the track for AlphaTauri, with Carlos Sainz also managing to out perform teammate Charles Leclerc in his official debut for Ferrari.
Mercedes have had a rather quiet day as Bottas barely managed any running this morning after a gearbox failure. Lewis Hamilton likewise has remained 3.5 seconds off the pace having completed 16 laps with the Brit asking for a change of pedals.
Three other drivers had mechanical issues along with the aforementioned Bottas, as Mick Schumacher, Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, and Leclerc all suffered from car failures.
In what was our first look at the 2021 F1 cars, it was Gasly who also completed the most laps of any driver in the morning session, with 74.
We also saw the likes of Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, Esteban Ocon for Alpine, Roy Nissany for Williams, Kimi Raikkonen for Alfa Romeo, and Mick Schumacher for Haas out on track.
There were few technical issues of note during the four-hour session, but the big story from the morning involved Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas, who missed much of the running with a gearbox problem.
The Finnish driver only managed to complete one installation lap before being halted, for what the team described as a 'gear shift issue'. He did emerge in the final hour to finalise aero testing for the team.
Initial running was brought to a close by a red flag when Charles Leclerc lost drive through the first few corners. The Ferrari man did complete 59 laps beforehand, but it's a disappointing end to the morning for the team aiming to return to the front of the grid.
Verstappen was just 0.042 seconds away from Ricciardo in the final time classification from the first session, and that came after an early spin that saw him destroy a set of the hard rubber.
A sandstorm midway through the morning session did also cause one or two concerns, but testing was able to continue undeterred.