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F1 2024 Pre-season testing day one results

A precious first taste of relative performances of all ten teams will be revealed on the first day of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit

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After eight hours of intensive on-track testing by all teams, it was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen that set the fastest lap of the day.

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The Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen (left) and Sergio Perez (right) walking towards the Bahrain International Circuit ahead of pre-season testing (Image Credit: @F1 on X)

The 2024 Formula One World Championship is upon us. All ten teams have unveiled their liveries and are ready to take on yet another gruelling calendar, this time with a record 24 rounds in the season.

But before the racing begins on March 2 at the Bahrain International Circuit, drivers and personnel have rocked up at the racetrack a week early for pre-season testing.

Taking place over three days, pre-season testing gives teams the opportunity to understand their new car and dial in its performance ahead of the opening round of the campaign. For fans, it gives a precious first hint as to what one can expect for the year ahead in terms of the pecking order of teams and drivers.

Given this, will it be another season of Red Bull dominance with star driver Max Verstappen romping to a fourth successive Drivers’ Title? Or will the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren finally catch up and challenge for race wins and the top position in the Standings?

Day One of pre-season testing may just provide that initial clue we’ve been waiting for throughout winter…

Summary

Red Bull and Max Verstappen dominated the first day of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, ending the two combined sessions with a time over a second faster than the McLaren of Lando Norris.

The three-time World Champion also clocked the highest number of laps of all 18 drivers on track over the day, with a total of 143 laps. George Russell managed 122 laps in his Mercedes W15, while Nico Hulkenberg managed the third most laps with 82.

Williams Racing were undoubtedly the outfit that struggled the most; Albon suffered a fuel pump issue late on in the AM session while Sargeant lost control and nearly hit the barriers whilst also experiencing a gearbox problem in the afternoon.

RB and especially Daniel Ricciardo impressed in terms of pace, ending the day in P4. At the other end of the spectrum, the Haas pairing of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg ended up bottom of the pile in 17th and 18th respectively.

But perhaps most notable of all, general reliability was good from all teams. This bodes well for the opening round of the season in just over a week’s time, as no team appears to have a persistent mechanical complication.

Session one

Referred to as the AM session, the first half of running saw the following drivers elected by their teams to gather data and take on the circuit.

Red Bull: Max Verstappen

Mercedes: George Russell

Ferrari: Charles Leclerc

McLaren: Oscar Piastri

Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso

Alpine: Esteban Ocon

Williams: Alex Albon

RB: Yuki Tsunoda

Kick Sauber: Valtteri Bottas

Haas: Kevin Magnussen

Hour one

The Mercedes of Russell was straight out of his pit box and first to queue up at the end of the pitlane. He had aero rakes fitted all around his W15 to measure aerodynamic performance whilst ringing his car out on track.

Next out was Alonso, followed by Albon, Bottas and the rest. The first representative time on the screens was a 1:39.956 courtesy of Russell. With five minutes of the four-hour session already passed, only the McLaren of Piastri had yet to get out of the pits.

While Russell subsequently improved his time, it was Ferrari who took hold of the fastest time, with Leclerc setting a 1:37.432 on the Hard compound of tyre.

It is important to note that this time is almost eight seconds off Verstappen’s pole lap for last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The priority for teams and drivers in the opening minutes of the AM session was to check immediate reliability and report back initial drivability levels.

Strangely enough, Verstappen was the slowest driver on circuit with 15 minutes of the session completed, just over a second down on Leclerc. However, only four cars had set a time thus far.

Cameras remained focussed on the Red Bull RB20, where the first proper images of their unique sidepod air intake entries were shown. Would the openings be big enough to keep the car cool over entire race distances?

The Kick Sauber of Bottas put the hammer down, enabling the striking black and neon-green liveried car to shoot up to the top of the leaderboard with a 1:35.334. Magnussen in the Haas got close, moving up to P2 with a 1:35.692.

Both times were soundly beaten by Alonso, who manoeuvred his AMR24 around the circuit exactly one second quicker than Bottas. He subsequently improved on this by setting a time of a 1:33.822.

With half an hour gone, Albon, Ocon and Piastri were the only drivers yet to set a time.

Media poured their attention on Mercedes’ new front wing, which had an abnormally thin fourth element which none of the other teams had seemed to go with.

Verstappen went a little bit faster to move up from seventh to fourth. A brief visit to the pits followed, and on his next flying lap he appeared to struggle, losing rear grip through the first few corners before locking up and going wide at Turn 8.

40 minutes in and Ocon finally got a lap time on the board; a 1:36.823 good enough for sixth. Leclerc jumped up to second place with a 1:34.320 on the Medium tyre compound, then took the top spot away from Alonso by beating his best by about a tenth and a half of a second. This was all despite suffering from regular bottoming out at the end of the main straight, causing sparks to fly out from the rear of the SF-24.

Tsunoda wrung the neck of his VCARB 01, setting a 1:34.834 to claim third position.

A greater number of laps completed is often a good indicator of performance, as it can mean that the team and driver are confident in the setup and driveability of the car and the car itself is reliable enough to endure a good amount of continuous running. With an hour of the AM session complete, Alonso had done the most rounds around the Bahrain International Circuit on 20 laps.

Hour two

Albon, with his FW46 sprayed bright orange with flow-vis paint, finally managed a representative time which moved him up to P4, just over a second behind Leclerc in the Ferrari. Only Piastri’s MCL38 had yet to get a time on the board.

Our first off-track excursion came from Alpine’s Ocon with two hours and 40 minutes remaining. He went wide at Turn 4 and took a trip across the gravel. He did well to keep the A524 facing in the right direction with an armful of opposite lock.

Apart from the above minor mishap however, none of the other teams appeared to be suffering from any issues. In other words, reliability is looking strong for 2024.

Alonso reclaimed the top spot with a 1:33.385, almost three tenths faster than Leclerc’s time.

But the former’s time in P1 didn’t last long, as Verstappen finally put a decent lap together to go another three tenths quicker with a 1:33.065.

Meanwhile, Piastri eventually got off the mark near the halfway point of the session and slotted into P8 on the Hard compound, becoming the tenth and final car to set a time.

Leclerc lined up for a quick lap and set a purple first sector, but subsequently locked up into Turn 8 and aborted his attempt. He tried again at his next rotation, climbing above Alonso and within 0.2 seconds of Verstappen.

Albon and Williams were stuck in the pits for a while, trying to fix a minor issue with their DRS activation on the rear wing. This was wasting precious time to gather data and gauge their relative performance.

Hour three

Albon went off the track at Turn 10 with Ocon bearing down on him as a possible cause for distraction. No harm done though.

Piastri improved to fourth position with a 1:34.359. However, his McLaren shed a piece of its chassis from underneath while riding over a bump between Turns 10 and 11. He came into the pits to repair the damage.

Williams were stuck in the pits once again, this time to change the FW46’s front suspension geometry in an effort to find more lap time.

With 90 minutes left on the clock, it was Russell and Mercedes who had completed the fewest number of laps at 19. They were also the slowest, down in tenth on a 1:36.542. Signs of some sort of struggle, perhaps?

Ocon bettered his previous best but remained in eighth place, over two seconds down on Verstappen who became the first car to set a time in the 1:32s, more specifically a 1:32.548.

The RB20 notably appeared to glide over the bumpy nature of the Bahrain International Circuit, compared to other cars which rocked and jumped over the bumps and occasionally locked up as a result, especially the Ferrari SF-24.

Kick Sauber changed the front wing of their C44, while Russell finally got back out on track after performing various setup changes on the car in the pits.  Magnussen however was the next driver stuck in the pit box, reportedly with a fuel systems issue that Haas were attempting to fix with just over an hour to go.

Hour four

Alonso remained at the top of the leaderboard for most completed laps, with 55. Verstappen had the next highest with 51 while Tsunoda was third in that respect with 50.

Haas finally managed to get Magnussen back out on track, but onboard cameras showed a distinct lack of front-end grip and resultant understeer.

Both Ferrari and Mercedes continued to struggle with the bumps, with the effects of porpoising still not completely ironed out of either of their cars. Russell suffered an especially hefty hit from the underside of his W15, jolting his head violently at the end of the main straight.

It was very much a different story for Red Bull and Verstappen who had a very smooth car, although he did lock up into Turn 8 with a highly fuelled RB20 with half an hour to go.

Albon brought out the first Yellow flag of pre-season testing, bringing his FW46 to a stop just beyond the Turn 2-3 complex with 22 minutes left on the clock. The engine was turned off on the main straight, citing a potential electronics issue or a lack of fuel.

We saw our first overtake of 2024 , as Verstappen darted up the inside of Leclerc into the first corner with just a handful of minutes remaining. Leclerc was overtaken again moments later, the second time by the RB of Tsunoda.

With teams prioritising longer race runs to end the AM session, times remained the same at the top as the chequered flag was waved. Verstappen ended up seven tenths quicker than second-placed Leclerc, while Fernando ended the session a further tenth and a half down.

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Image Credit: @F1 on X
Session two

Most teams switched drivers for the second half of the day, while Red Bull and Mercedes kept Verstappen and Russell respectively in their 2024 challengers for the PM session.

Red Bull: Max Verstappen

Mercedes: George Russell

Ferrari: Carlos Sainz Jr.

McLaren: Lando Norris

Aston Martin: Lance Stroll

Alpine: Pierre Gasly

Williams: Logan Sargeant

RB: Daniel Ricciardo

Kick Sauber: Guanyu Zhou

Haas: Nico Hulkenberg

Hour one

Nobody was determined to get out of the pits straight away as the green light showed at the end of the pitlane. Winds were certainly picking up, as flags waved furiously and palm trees danced in the breezy air.

First out on track was the Ferrari of Sainz, fitted with aero rakes behind the rear tyres. He was also the first to put a time on the board for the PM session, setting a 1:40.742 on the decidedly low grip Hard tyre. The Spaniard eventually improved this to a 1:38.865 before heading back into the Ferrari garage, still slower than all of the ten drivers who took part in the AM session.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Aston Martin Team Principal Mike Krack credited all teams for a perceived “high level of engineering”, evident in the lack of major mechanical issues seen during the first part of pre-season testing.

Russell was back behind the wheel for Mercedes, and after a leisurely outlap went quicker than Sainz by over a second, albeit still slower than his own best during the morning test.

The Alpine of Gasly came out on the Hard compound, and duly crossed the line slowest of the bunch, over six seconds down on Verstappen’s earlier time.

Next up was Verstappen, who pushed hard on the Hard tyre to set the quickest time of the second half of day one: a 1:34.180.

Hulkenberg and Ricciardo for Haas and RB respectively came out with 45 minutes of the session already past. They moved into P14 and P12 respectively. The former subsequently moved up to tenth position with a 1:35.692.

Putting the hammer down near the one hour mark was Russell in the W15, who climbed above Tsunoda to claim fifth place with a 1:34.109 lap time.

Norris on the Medium compound of tyre put his very first time on the screens, a 1:35.781 more than three seconds off Verstappen’s ultimate pace. Zhou was next to set a representative lap, but was slowest of the runners as the clock ticked 16:00 local time.

Hour two

Stroll for Aston Martin and Sargeant for Williams were the two remaining scheduled drivers yet to have a feel of the circuit with three hours of the PM session to go. Meanwhile, Sainz put on the Medium tyre and set a 1:33.386 to slot into P4.

Williams Team Principal James Vowles explained why the FW46 of Sargeant hadn’t come out on track yet. He stated that they were checking to make sure he wouldn’t suffer the same fuel pump issue that Albon had towards the end of the morning session and had to dismantle the car to do so.

Zhou impressed in his C44, moving up to P8 just ahead of teammate Bottas with a 1:34.384.

Aston Martin’s Stroll finally got a representative time out, a 1:34.598 helping him to P12. In the interim, Sainz further improved to within half a tenth of Verstappen, threatening to depose the Dutchman with the fastest time. Norris also moved up to third.

The sun was beginning to drop ever closer to the horizon, and was producing glare on Drivers’ cars and visors which reduced visibility and made their job of driving all the more difficult.

Finally we saw a new car at the top, as Norris went quicker than everyone else with a 1:32.484 after 16 laps of running in his MCL38.

Sargeant, who is believed to have gained five kilograms of muscle mass over the winter break, looked comfortable in the FW46. His best time at the halfway point of the PM session of a 1:35.438 put him into 15th place.

Ricciardo looked fast in the VCARB 01, and went quicker than everyone else in the final sector to move up to fifth position. His time: a 1:33.325 on the Medium compound.

Hour three

A trio of purple sectors for Verstappen snatched P1 away from Norris, as the Red Bull driver went over nine tenths faster than his previous best with a 1:31.662.

Gasly and Sainz almost had a coming together through Turn 13, with the former demonstrating his frustration with a hand gesture off the steering wheel.

Verstappen became the first driver to reach a century of laps, while Sargeant spun hurtling through Turn 9 and did well to keep his Williams out of the barriers. No Yellow flags for a Williams this time round though.

Stroll moved up to fourth, which was duly taken by Ricciardo in the RB with just over 90 minutes of the first day of pre-season testing left.

More issues for Williams and Sargeant, who seemed to suffer from gearbox issues shifting from third to fourth gear out of Turn 8. The American driver pottered back into the pits to have the problem fixed.

Verstappen attempted to beat his own top time near the three hour mark, but lost rear grip through Turn 13 which ruined the rest of the lap for the defending Drivers’ Champion.

Hour four

The sun had well and truly set for the final hour of running, with the many floodlights lining the Bahrain International Circuit providing visibility for the drivers out on track. Track temperatures began to drop from their near-40 degrees Celsius peaks, which would provide better grip levels for the closing stages of the test.

Ricciardo further improved on his impressive time earlier in the PM session, despite running wide through Turns 14 and 15. He remained in P4.

The Aston Martin of Stroll wrestled his AMR24 around the circuit in one minute and 33.007 seconds to consolidate his position in fifth. RB changed the front camber of Ricciardo’s VCARB 01, before the Aussie racer improved yet again to move within milliseconds of Sainz’ third place time.

Russell finally clocked 100 laps in his W15, while Verstappen went beyond 120 laps with half an hour of running left. After a slight setup change, the latter set yet another two purple sectors to set a 1:31.344. He was now over a second clear of the entire field.

A scary moment for Ricciardo and Hulkenberg, who swerved to avoid a left-hand wing mirror that ejected itself off of Stroll’s Aston Martin. Unfortunately, the Haas car ran over the stricken piece of AMR24, though it caused no apparent damage.

As teams prioritised high fuel runs, the timing screens stayed the same for the final half hour or so.

So after a long eight hours of data collection, setup optimisation and driver acclimatisation, it was usual suspect Verstappen at the top of the timings by a considerable margin. But being the first day of testing, we cannot extrapolate too much about relative performance until we’ve seen what the remaining two days have to offer.

However, is this an early sign of third year of total Red Bull domination? Make sure to keep up with the rest of pre-season testing on FormulaNerds to stay in the know.

Final classification
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Image Credit: @F1 on X

Feature Image Credit: @F1 on X

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