What we learned in F1 pre-season testing as Verstappen goes fastest

Preparations for the 2023 F1 campaign are now truly underway as fans watched on during day one of pre-season testing in Bahrain. 19 drivers and 10 teams took to the Sakhir track as they look to reach their peak in time for the season curtain-raiser on March 5. While it is still very early days, there were a few changes to the pecking order at the front of the grid on the opening day of pre-season testing. Express Sport looks at some takeaways from day one…

The defending champion leads the way

On day one Max Verstappen, entering the season as the two-time defending champion, set the pace this morning with the fastest time. The Dutchman would go on to end the day at the top of the leaderboard with a time of 1:32.837.

Following closely behind was the surprise name of Fernando Alonso, who impressed for his new team Aston Martin, while the pair of Ferrari Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished third and fourth fastest respectively, with the former suffering from some bouncing. Lewis Hamilton didn’t take to the track until after lunchtime and finished the day P6, sixth tenths behind leader Verstappen.

Mercedes teammate George Russell finished in ninth place and was over 1.3 seconds off the pace set by the Red Bull driver. Lando Norris was fifth for McLaren despite losing track time after the team needed to carry out “precautionary repairs” to his car.

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Ferrari suffer with some porpoising

As teams continue to adjust to the new cars and regulations introduced prior to last season, only subtle changes were made to the cars for 2023. The main difference is perhaps a raised ride height rule implemented to help teams with bouncing.

Few changes were made to Red Bull’s RB19 after the dominance they enjoyed in last season’s car. Despite some bouncing experienced by Sainz, there were encouraging signs for both Ferrari in their “completely redesigned” car.

The iconic Italian team were hard at work in the off-season as they endeavoured to produce a car far more reliable than what they produced in 2022 after what started out as a very promising season. “The Red Bull looks quite stiff in terms of when it hits the bumps, but it’s definitely not bouncing or porpoising,” noted Sky Sports F1’s Anthony Davidson. “It’s just a stiff ride. They’ve got their car in a bit of a different place at the moment to the likes of Ferrari.”

No bouncing for the Silver Arrows

Mercedes, meanwhile, had an encouraging start despite what the timesheets may read. On a bumpy track, the new W14, didn’t appear to suffer from any bouncing, one of the team’s big woes early on in the 2022 season. Next, they will focus primarily on performance and improving lap times.

“Mercedes have to be one of the biggest stories of the winter because they’ve got such a long way to make up,” added Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz. “Nine, 10 months of development after last year’s car didn’t work out. The car looks good so far, none of the bouncing we saw last year but they’ll know more after today.”

Subtle Red Bull changes outlined

Though little changes have been made, Kravitz outlined the subtle differences he was able to identify with Red Bull’s car.

“Red Bull haven’t stood still, there is definitely a family resemblance from last year’s car but I have spotted a new rear wing and there’s a new floor of course, while it’s based on a new lighter weight chassis,” he added. “Immediately, they’ve got a few tenths, maybe even half a second, out of a lighter chassis itself. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“This Red Bull was developed before their aerodynamic penalties were applied but those will bite later on in the season. So Red Bull need to get their shots in early, while maybe Ferrari can catch up once the season gets going.”

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