Lewis Hamilton has been beaten by new Mercedes team-mate George Russell in the first practice sessions of the 2022 Formula 1 season in Bahrain.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly led the timesheets in the opening practice before world champion Max Verstappen took the lead in the second session.
The first two practices saw Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz second and third, while Hamilton was beaten by new team-mate Russell in both sessions.
The highly anticipated 2022 season has started with spectators looking for further clues about the order of the new grid.
Pre-season testing ended in Bahrain on March 12 ahead of the new campaign, with pundits and insiders suggesting Hamilton’s Mercedes could well follow Red Bulls and Ferraris for opening race pace.
We won’t know the real order until the leaders head into Q3 on Saturday night, but so far practice has followed a similar pattern to testing.
The only surprise was FP1 leader Gasly, who clearly seemed like an unrestrained driver, with his mechanic quickly jumping on the radio to say, “What a ride! It was good. We’re getting into the mojo now.
FP1 was red-flagged early on when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine decided to dump bodywork on the main straight, flooding Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin replacement Nico Hulkenburg with debris.
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Russell, who joined Mercedes from Williams for 2022 with huge expectations, beat fellow Briton Hamilton but wasn’t too happy with his run.
“The car feels very windy compared to last week,” he said on his team radio, as a 19-degree Bahrain circuit offered a different set of challenges.
Some expect sleeping giants Ferrari to challenge for the world title this season, and saw drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finish second and third respectively.
Two-time race winner Leclerc even managed to spin his car, suggesting the Italian team could already show their hand at the start of the race weekend by pushing the limits of testing.
Leclerc then followed up an eventful Friday by meeting Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda up close in the second session in an exchange investigated by the stewards.
Meanwhile, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo suffered another setback after missing the second test with COVID, seeing his training limited by a water leak.
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