Max Verstappen of Red Bull set the speed on the opening day of preseason Formula 1 testing in Bahrain.
The world champion, who led the timesheets for the majority of the day, finished 0.029 seconds faster than Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari were third and fourth fastest, ahead of Lando Norris of McLaren and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Alex Albon of Williams finished seventh, ahead of Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo.
Because teams do not disclose the configuration in which they run their cars and because fuel loads, engine modes, and other factors can have a huge impact on performance, pre-season testing lap numbers are infamously bad indications of form for the upcoming season.
Nonetheless, Red Bull was impressive all day long as the vehicles made their track debut for this season.
The new Red Bull RB19, which had not been seen before Thursday morning, was dubbed a “evolution” of the RB18 from the previous year by team president Christian Horner. Verstappen dominated the 2022 season while driving the RB18 to his second championship.
Verstappen will likely start the year as the favorite for a third title because of the car’s massive undercuts on the sidepods, which are intended to improve airflow to the rear.
Verstappen was the only driver to complete all 157 laps of the day, or nearly three race distances. Every other team alternated between two drivers when running.
Verstappen set the quickest time earlier in the day when circumstances were better for rapid laps, but Alonso’s fastest time came much later in the day, which was positive for the two-time champion and his new team, who are looking to advance further after placing seventh last year.
Verstappen was 0.416 seconds faster than Sainz during the day’s opening driving session, and Leclerc was only 0.014 seconds faster during the afternoon and nighttime sessions.
Frederic Vasseur, the head of the Ferrari team, said: “While it is still very early, the initial impression was positive. The most crucial thing was to calculate mileage, and everything is fine now. The run plan was successful, and everything is progressing according to plan.”
Toto Wolff, the team principal for Mercedes, said the first day of testing was a significant improvement over last year, when serious issues with the car’s performance warned the team they were in trouble and hinted at a challenging campaign.
quoting Wolff “It looks to be evenly balanced throughout. After last year and trying various things, it was vital to correlate, thus we gathered a lot of data.
“Last year, we could barely control the car because it was just bouncing about, and we knew we were in trouble. That is definitely different.
“Now that we have a strong foundation, I believe we can strive to optimize the car, which we haven’t yet done. Finding out if there are any more places that might actually hinder performance, as last year with the bouncing, is all that is required. And now we just need to finish the program.”
Due to mechanical issues, McLaren had to stiffen the air deflectors over the front wheels and complete fewer laps than many of its competitors.
However late in the day, Norris gave the team some encouragement with a quick lap that put him ahead of Hamilton and 0.625 seconds behind Verstappen’s pace.
Testing will continue on Friday and Saturday in preparation for the season’s opening race, which will take place in Bahrain on March 3-5.
2023 fastest times from the first day of preseason testing
1 Red Bull one minute, 32.837 seconds, Max Verstappen (Ned)
Aston Martin 2 Fernando Alonso (Spa) 1:32.866
Ferrari 3 Carlos Sainz (Spa) 1:33.253
Ferrari 1:33.267, Charles Leclerc (Mon) fourth
1:33.462 Lando Norris (GB) fifth place, McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 6th, Mercedes 1:33.508
1:33.671 7 Alex Albon (Tha) Williams
Alfa Romeo 8 Zhou Guanyu (Chi) 1:33.723
Mercedes-Benz 9 George Russell (GB) 1:34.174
Williams finished tenth (USA) in 1:34.324.
A1:34.424 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger)
Alfa Romeo 12 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) 1:34.558
1:34.559 Nyck De Vries (Ned), Alpha Tauri
Felipe Drugovich (Bra) owns fourteen Aston Martins. 1:34.564
Alpha Tauri 1:34.671, Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn), page 15.
Alpine 16 Pierre Gasly (Fra) 1:34.822
Alpine 1:34.871 Esteban Ocon, 17
18 Oscar Piastri (Aus) 1:34.888 McLaren
1:35.087 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
All other times use the midrange C3 tire; * indicates a time set on a softer C5 tire.