Sergio Perez fastest qualifier 1pt each-way 6-1 general
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Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying predictions
Fernando Alonso was the man of the moment as Formula 1 hit the track for the first practice sessions of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.
The Aston Martin team raised plenty of eyebrows with their performances in testing at the Sakhir circuit last week, which looked like they might be too good to be true.
But they improved that form with Alonso setting the fastest time of the opening day’s action, having been second in the morning.
And teammate Lance Stroll, who missed testing following a cycling accident, was sixth in both sessions.
It’s still hard to believe that a team whose drivers finished 12th and 15th in last year’s standings could suddenly be the class of the field, and there were signs that the Astons were running lighter fuel loads than Red Bull and Ferrari. But they still showed enough to suggest they can be major players this season.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez were both within 0.04 seconds of Alonso’s fastest time, and on race simulation runs the trio were miles clear of anyone else. Teams run in practice with varying amounts of fuel and in a range of different engine modes, and the picture could be quite different when everyone pulls out the stops in qualifying.
The likelihood is that, as testing suggested, Red Bull are in a league of their own, with Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin battling to be best of the rest.
At the prices, Perez looks a decent each-way qualifying bet. Red Bull tend to develop their car in a way that suits Verstappen as the season progresses, meaning Perez is more competitive in the earlier races.
The Mexican veteran scored his sole career pole position in the second event of last season in Saudi Arabia. Of the four times he outqualified Verstappen last year, three came in the first eight races.
Perez was fastest in first practice on Friday as Verstappen battled a balance issue, and was only 0.002 seconds behind the world champion in the dusk session, which took place at the same time of day as qualifying will happen.
Mercedes will have been disappointed to be lurking in midfield, although it’s a bit soon to be drawing too many conclusions.
Ferrari meanwhile look in a similar position to where they ended last year – in the podium hunt but not really in a position to fight for victories.