Gabriel Bortoleto began his 2023 Formula 3 campaign in fine form, topping the timing sheets in the opening Free Practice session in Sakhir. The Brazilian looked right at home in his #5 Trident car, setting a 1:47.775 to go 0.075s clear of Hitech Pulse-Eight's Gabriele Minì - in an all-rookie top two.
Taylor Barnard put his Jenzer Motorsport car into the P1 initially with a 1:49.712, 0.155s ahead of teammate Nikita Bedrin. Bedrin then took his own turn at the top of the order, knocking four tenths off the British driver’s best effort.
As the clock approached 23 minutes remaining, a flurry of cars headed out of the pits to put their times on the board. Bortoleto swiftly became the driver to beat, clocking in a 1:48.395, 0.065s ahead of Alpine junior Minì.
Having set the pace in pre-season testing, Grégoire Saucy’s speed seemed to carry over into the morning session. The ART Grand Prix driver looked to be up on Bortoleto’s time in the opening sector but encountered traffic around the Bahrain International Circuit and slotted into third.
Bortoleto then set out to extend his advantage, breaking into the 1:47s for the first time – swiftly joined by Minì and Saucy. The trio remained comfortably out front to the chequered flag.
The final driver to be signed for the 2023 campaign, Luke Browning’s late effort moved him into fourth for Hitech Pulse-Eight, 0.451s down on the leading Trident driver. Caio Collet’s experience around the Sakhir circuit proved useful as the Brazilian slotted up into fifth, whilst Leonardo Fornaroli ensured two Trident cars inside the top six.
Paul Aron was the leading PREMA Racing driver in seventh, ahead of the returning Franco Colapinto for MP Motorsport, ART’s Kaylen Frederick and PREMA's Zak O’Sullivan, who rounded out the top 10.
With track evolution expected to be a major factor in Qualifying, it’ll be all to play for when the session gets underway at 4pm local time.