The Sahara Force India Formula One Team had three drivers in action during the opening day of on track action at the Sakhir circuit ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix as during FP1 the team’s development driver Alfonso Celis drove the car for the first time during an official race weekend, he took Perez’s car out this morning ending the session in 21st place with a fastest time of 1m 37.287s completing 23 laps. Speaking following the session, Celis stated:

Today was my first opportunity to drive the car during an official practice session and I really enjoyed the experience. Even compared to testing there were a lot more things to be aware of today, but I’m pleased with how things went. The team asked me to work through an aero programme to get some data from the new parts at the front of the car. So I left some margin with my driving because the priority was to get the information for the team. I’m already looking forward to my next time in the car in Russia.

Nico Hulkenberg did a great job in Free Practice one as he ended the session in sixth place just behind Max Verstappen in the Toro Rosso completing 28 laps with a fastest time of 1m 34.601s.

In the evening session the German completed 37 laps on his way to posting the 17 fastest lap with a 1m 33.570s and speaking at the conclusion of Friday’s action, Hulk commented:

The two sessions today were routine by free practice standards. It’s good, especially at this early stage in the season, to go through two sessions without any hiccups: it means we have lots of information to help us find some more speed overnight. It’s hard to judge where we stand at the moment in terms of absolute pace, but we’ve done all our homework in terms of running the different tyre compounds, which means we are well prepared for the rest of the weekend.

Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez made up the time he lost this morning by completing 35 laps and ending the second session in 15th place. Speaking following his time in the car, the Mexican commented by saying:

Even though I sat out the first session today, I believe we managed to catch up in the evening with a very busy FP2. The lap times are not where we want them to be, even if it is very early in the weekend, so we will be working hard this evening to make sure we are competitive in qualifying. The car balance is good, so we should be aiming to find some lap time and be back in the top ten tomorrow.

Deputy Team Principal with Force India, Robert Fernley commented by saying:

First of all, I want to congratulate Alfonso for a good performance in FP1: he did all that the team was asking of him and he produced useful feedback for our engineers, which is what we need from a young driver. Both sessions were trouble-free from our perspective and we have a vast amount of data to draw upon as we prepare for tomorrow. There is still work to do before we can be satisfied with our pace, but I am confident we can make up that ground and be qualifying in the top ten tomorrow.

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