Felipe Drugovich laid down an early warning to his Formula 2 rivals after going fastest in the new season’s opening practice session.
Despite the teams testing for three days in Bahrain, practice would be the first real opportunity to see who would be up at the front of the grid and who would still be playing catch-up in qualifying.
The session’s opening five minutes was a quiet affair as the teams and drivers set about completing their installation laps to check that all systems were working and ready for action. The FIA brought out a virtual safety car to check that DRS was working.
Campos returnee Ralph Boschung was the first driver to set a quick lap time with a 1:46.943 – over a tenth quicker than Campos teammate and rookie Gianluca Petecof in second. HWA rookie Matteo Nannini was third, over a second down in the early stages of the session.
Boschung improved on his next lap to go three tenths quicker than Petecof, but Campos’s dominance on the timesheets didn’t last long as Dan Ticktum went over a second quicker to go top.
Hitech rookie Liam Lawson went second quickest on his first proper run with the Kiwi just under a tenth down on the Brit as the times began to tumble.
Drugovich revealed his early pace by going over a tenth quicker than the Brit to go fastest for new employers UNI-Virtuosi, with just over 20 minutes left in the session.
MP Motorsport‘s Richard Verschoor, who was confirmed to drive in Bahrain with just two days until official practice began, had a challenging start to life in Formula 2 with the Dutch driver venturing off onto the runoff area at Turn 9 as he finished the first half of the session 15th fastest.
The first practice session’s theme was lockups as rookies Theo Pourchaire and Oscar Piastri locked up on their push laps. Guanyu Zhou also locked up at Turn 1 to prove that even the veterans were testing the Bahrain International Circuit limits.
With the final five minutes of the session used for gathering data rather than hot laps, no one could beat Drugovich’s time, who finished the session quickest ahead of Ticktum and Lawson.
Armstrong was fourth quickest, ahead of Shwartzman and Zendeli.
Pourchaire was 11th fastest ahead of Alpine juniors Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, who could only manage 13th and eight tenths down on pacesetter Drugovich.
Nannini was 21st ahead of teammate Alessio Deledda who rounded off the timesheets over three seconds slower than Drugovich.
Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited