Verstappen sets early pace as F1 pre-season testing kicks off
Event: 2023 Pre-Season F1 testing
Track: Bahrain International Circuit
Formula 1 teams have kicked off their pre-season testing in Bahrain this morning, with all eyes on the new cars and driver lineups ahead of the 2023 season. The test runs for three days, providing teams with a valuable opportunity to get to grips with their cars and gather data before the season opener in just a few weeks.
As the teams hit the track for the first hour of testing, it was Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll who grabbed the headlines, but not for the right reasons. Stroll was involved in a cycling accident and the team has yet to provide an update on his condition or their plans for the rest of the week. If Stroll is unable to race, it is expected that Felipe Drugovich will get more driving time this week to prepare for his F1 debut.
As the morning session progressed, Red Bull stood out as the only team running just one driver. With no need to change the car or adjust the seat, Max Verstappen was able to squeeze every last second from the session. The team is determined to leave no stone unturned ahead of their title defence, while others were content to call it a day with mechanics preparing to swap the setups to accommodate the afternoon drivers.
In the third hour of testing, the yellow flags flew followed by a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) as the FIA checked all their procedures before the start of the season. The VSC conditions slowed down the drivers, giving rookie Oscar Piastri a taste of how slow he needed to go to abide by the protocols. Meanwhile, teams like Williams were not struggling with reliability, with Albon completing 70 laps so far and likely to hit triple figures by the end of the day.
By the fourth hour of testing, Mercedes was on a longer run with higher fuel, and Russell was the latest driver to clock up a half century of laps. So far, their porpoising does not seem too bad, unlike during testing last year. However, unlike Ferrari, they may be very early in their program and not yet at a stage where they are starting to push their setup. While the teams were focusing on their programs, it was interesting to see how Verstappen would get on this year, after winning his first world title and becoming a more focused and measured driver.
Throughout the first morning on day one of pre-season testing, a number of drivers topped the timing sheets. Max Verstappen ended the morning fastest with a time of 1:32.959 min set with 38 minutes to in the morning session. Carlos Sainz was second quickest, 0.294 seconds adrift, with Alex Albon in third place on +0.712s. It's worth noting, however, that teams are running different programs and fuel loads, making it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about the pace of the various teams. Nevertheless, it was a strong start to testing for Verstappen and Red Bull.
As the pre-season testing continues this afternoon and over the next few days, F1 fans will keep a close eye on their favorite teams and drivers. With new car designs, driver lineups, and team strategies, it promises to be an exciting season. The teams have just a few more days of testing to gather as much data as possible before the first race of the season in just around the corner.
Morning times Day 1 Pre-season F1 Testing
|P||No||Driver||Team||Lap Time||1st Gap||Laps|
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:32,959||71|
|4||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||1:33,723||+0,764||67|
|7||34||Felipe Drugovich||Aston Martin||1:34,564||+1,605||40|
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