Max Verstappen topped the first day of Formula 1 pre-season testing in Bahrain, with the Dutch driver going further and faster than anyone else.
Verstappen turned the Red Bull RB16B to the fastest time of the day in the latter stages of the afternoon session following a bizarre turn in the weather.
A sandstorm rolled itself over the Sakhir International Circuit, making grip all-but-impossible at times.
Once the sandstorm had cleared, it was all hands on deck as everyone set fastest lap after fastest lap.
Behind Verstappen was Lando Norris for McLaren. The Brit shared driving duties with Daniel Ricciardo, with the Australian posting the seventh quickest time of the day.
Esteban Ocon drove 128 laps for the Alpine outfit, setting the third fastest lap time despite being on a softer tyre compound to Norris.
Aston Martin ended up fourth courtesy of a late lap by Lance Stroll. Stroll’s teammate Sebastian Vettel spent most of the morning session acclimatising to the new car, suggesting he has a lot still to learn ahead of the first race.
“There’s still a lot of new things I need to get used to,” Vettel said.
“Obviously, the car is different. It’s run differently. It’s a different power unit, a lot of different switches, buttons, procedures.
“But also in terms of handling, the car is different, so a different approach, and then basic stuff, steering, brakes, the car behaviour that I need to get used to.
“There’s still quite a bit of margin for myself, and improvement that I have to do on driving, just getting familiar with the car.”
Carlos Sainz suffered a spin in what was otherwise a robust afternoon session. Ferrari’s newest recruit ended the day fifth on the timesheets.
The biggest news from day one was the lack of running completed by reigning champions Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas was tasked with driving in the morning session but would only rack up six tours due to a reoccurring gearbox issue.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton fared better in the afternoon but still only managed 42 laps in a troubled day for the team.
“It’s been a poor start to the season from us today,” said Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.
“We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem, and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis.
“Once we got running, it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window, and while we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing, and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do.
“We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed but we have two days left and every opportunity to recover the situation.”
Other dramas to hamper the field include a misfire for Charles Leclerc, causing the Ferrari driver to stop on track and bring out a red flag.
Mick Schumacher had his day slashed to just 12 laps when Haas identified a gearbox problem, resulting in a lengthy change.