Max Verstappen's RB16B sparks in the night-time

For the first time in the turbo-hybrid era a non-Mercedes driver will line up from pole position for a season-opening grand prix, but can Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the first victory of the campaign?

Max Verstappen gives the thumbs up after taking pole

Max Verstappen has broken reigning champion Lewis Hamilton in the fight for pole position at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen confirmed Red Bull Racing’s ascendancy with a comfortable pole position over Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Dutchman held a slender 0.023s advantage over the Mercedes after the pair’s first laps of the top-10 shootout but radioed his team that he wasn’t happy with his lap, hinting at more pace to be squeezed from his RB16B. He duly delivered with a second blistering lap of 1m 28.997s, dismissing Hamilton by 0.388s.

It’s the first time Mercedes hasn’t taken the first pole position of the season since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, also the scene of Red Bull Racing’s last season-opening pole.

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Max Verstappen kept Red Bull Racing on top in the only night-time practice session at the Bahrain Grand Prix, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was his closest pursuer.

The Dutchman’s lap of 1m30.847s was enough to continue his control of the time sheet after also leading first practice in the heat of the late afternoon sun. Friday evening practice is the only session of the Bahrain Grand Prix representative of the after-dark qualifying and race conditions and is therefore considered a more accurate measure of relative performance.

Norris was the surprise next-quickest driver, only 0.095s adrift. His Mercedes-powered McLaren team suggested the Briton’s soft-shod lap was the car’s first performance run after eschewing low-fuel running during pre-season testing. Lewis Hamilton followed in third as the fastest Mercedes driver, but the Briton was 0.235s off Verstappen’s pace.

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Max Verstappen opened the 2021 Formula 1 season with the fastest time of first practice for Red Bull Racing at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Dutchman rocketed to the top of the time sheet with a lap of 1m31.394s in the final five minutes of the session with a fresh set of soft tires.

The Honda-powered RB16B was 0.298s quicker than Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas, but the practice hour did little to clarify the competitive order between the two constructor giants.

Red Bull Racing and Mercedes spent the first half of the session rotating through top spot of the order, with Sergio Perez opening proceedings for his new team first before being usurped by Lewis Hamilton and in turn Bottas.

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I preview the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix with last year’ spodcast guest Abhishek Takle.

Max Verstappen sits in his car with his visor open

After seven years of F1 domination, has Mercedes finally unveiled a car with a beatable weakness?

Michael Lamonato from the Box of Neutrals podcast and joined Jordan Kounelis to delve into what to expect from teams and drivers in the upcoming Formula 1 season beginning this weekend in Bahrain.

Laurence Edmonson joins us to ask the burning question of the season: when and where is William Storey returning to F1? We also talk about the championship for a bit.

Season 2 of In the Fast Lane begins by previewing the 2021 F1® season with Sky Sports F1 pundit Ted Kravitz, who looks at Mercedes’ pre-season struggles, Daniel Ricciardo’s early impact at McLaren, and whether Ferrari can bounce back at the first race of the season in Bahrain.

You might think that this isn’t cricket, and it’s not. It’s motor racing. We stop the startwatch in tribute to the life of Murray Walker, in whose 97 years anything could have happened, and it usually did – unless we’re very much mistaken.

Michael Lamonato from Box of Neutrals and F1 Strategy Report joined Jordan Kounelis to remember the life of legendary Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, who passed away at 97.

FormulaSpy’s Thomas Maher chatting with The Strategy Report’s Michael Lamanato

We make a rare promise fulfilment in this special preseason podcast. A long and often incoherent debate featuring too many references to Peter V’Landys, we’re joined by one-time Champ Car enthusiast John ‘Sometimes Drunk Bogan Friend’ Takemura representing the common man.

Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels for your chance to vote on the bills passed in this rambling parliamentary session.

Michael and Rob meet up with Rod Gordon and Zach Priest from Superlicense F1 Podcast for some salt and vinegar chips and our annual awards as well as some predictions that are almost immediately proved wrong.