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F1 2024 pre-season testing day three results

Who will show their hand on F1's final day of pre-season testing before the first race?

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Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets on the final day of testing in Bahrain, on a day of long runs and sandbagging by the teams. 

Charles Leclerc testing his Ferrari in Bahrain (Image Credit: @F1 on X)
Charles Leclerc testing his Ferrari in Bahrain (Image Credit: @F1 on X)

After a loose drain cover caused yesterday’s morning session to be curtailed, the pressure was on the teams to make up for lost time in the afternoon.

Although testing times are notoriously difficult to interpret, Ferrari clearly enjoyed a positive second day. McLaren and Mercedes continued their strong starts, while Aston Martin had an air of quiet confidence.

After Max Verstappen’s dominant performance on the first day, debate raged over Red Bull’s advantage. Sergio Perez never topped the times in either session, but the drivability and solid balance of the RB20 continued to attract attention.

As the teams headed into the final day, all eyes were on Red Bull to see if Max Verstappen would reveal the team’s hand. Could its rivals pull a surprise as testing drew to a close?

The team that needed to do the most work was Williams. The Grove outfit had a difficult second day, hampered by reliability issues. All drivers would take to the track today, barring Logan Sargeant in the Williams.

Morning session – raking in the data

Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen were first out of the pits, with the Aston Martin covered in aero rakes. No laps were recorded within the first ten minutes, but all cars were on track, bar Valterri Bottas in the Sauber.

Data gathering was the order of the day initially, with most cars covered in aero rakes or flow vis paint. Sergio Perez returned to the pits after a few laps to have his rake removed while others gathered as much data as possible.

The first flying lap came nearly 15 minutes into the session, courtesy of Carlos Sainz on the C4 tyre. The first indication of true performance, a time of 1:32.720, was seven-tenths of a second faster than his best effort yesterday but slower than expected.

Daniel Ricciardo had to return to the pits with a broken aero rake, with the bottom left of the delicate design breaking off. Hamilton placed a lap on the C3 tyre, with an aero rake adorning the side of his W15.

After 20 minutes, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez reemerged from the pit lane, the McLaren running flow vis paint, on the C3 tyre. Pushing hard, Norris lit up the timing pages but ended a tenth slower than Sainz. Sainz then went over eight-tenths faster just a few moments later. However, times were still over two seconds slower than yesterday’s fastest laps.

Red flag – deja vu

While teams kept pushing aero testing, Mercedes had its car on the jacks. But after just 27 minutes of running, a red flag came out, again at turn eleven, mirroring yesterday’s stoppage. The cause, unfortunately, was also identical: a loose drain cover.

Sergio Perez became the unfortunate victim today, with Red Bull frantically examining the floor of his RB20 after running it over. Race Director Niels Wittich arrived on the scene within minutes and examined the offending drain cover. The stoppage led to discussions over track limits and the effectiveness of kerbs. Would something be done to the kerb to prevent future occurrences?

Frantic welding at the corner by circuit officials continued, with no news from the FIA coming for over thirty minutes. The decision was taken to restart the session at 11:45 am local time. The session would run non-stop, with almost 8 hours of continuous testing to replace the time lost.

A frantic restart

After over an hour’s delay, the session resumed with a frantic rush to get out on the circuit. Aero rakes and flow vis paint were ditched, and an urgency kicked in for the morning drivers. Hamilton, Sainz, and Norris were the first out, while Lance Stroll attempted a practice start.

Everyone opted for the C3 tyres, but as always, no indication of fuel made the times difficult to decipher. Hamilton was the first to attempt a flying lap, seemingly unconcerned about the kerb at turn eleven, running over it as normal. His lap moved him into second place behind Sainz.

Perez was next to cross the line, moving into P2, just over half a second slower than Sainz. Stroll put a strong lap in to move into P4, 1.1 seconds behind leader Sainz, though he could not improve on his second attempt.

Further down the order, Williams and Haas had better starts to day three, with Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen out early gathering data. The Williams covered in flow vis paint was moved into P6. Magnussen moved into P7, moving closer to the rest of the field than yesterday.

Bottas ran down in in P8. Stake had yet to put in a performance lap, with the morning session on day three no different.

Hamilton fitted the softest tyres available, the C5 compound, and went 0.752s slower than Sainz. Driving round for multiple laps, the W15 looked planted and handled well. The first on-track blocking occurred, with Hamilton needing to slow down to avoid Sergio Perez’s Red Bull.

Midday long-distance lull

Long-distance runs then became the order of the day as drivers prepared to switch over for the final few hours of testing. Hamilton’s car went on the jacks with just under seven hours to go as Mercedes prepared to reveal their hand. Venturing out thirty minutes later, he fitted the C3 tyre and continued his long runs.

The cars were surprisingly well-behaved despite the high winds at several points over the circuit. Drivers were not running wide, with the cars now firmly dialled into their ideal set-up window. Plenty, however, squirmed with skilful saves needed.

RB was stuck firmly at the bottom of the timesheets, opting to go about their programme quietly, would F1’s most controversial car show its hand as the end of testing drew ever closer. Perez fitted the C2 tyres and moved to within two-tenths of Sainz, who remained at the top of the timesheets on a positive start to the day for Ferrari.

Sauber and McLaren had their screens up with six hours to go. The rear of the Sauber was off, indicating all was not well. McLaren, meanwhile, had begun to change the seat of the MCL38 for Oscar Piastri to take over. However, Norris ended his day with a tally of just 20 laps due to a clutch issue. Perez jumped out of his Red Bull shortly after for more work on his Red Bull. He rejoined the circuit thirty minutes later.

The lack of a Red Bull being out front gave hope that the reigning champions may have been partially caught by Ferrari. Although Sainz topped the timesheets, it was Magnussen in the Haas leading the lap count as the afternoon approached on 72, followed by Ricciardo on 70, Sainz on 56, Ocon on 49, Stroll on 46, Hamilton on 42, then Perez on 48.

At the 5-hour mark, the track became quiet, with just Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz lapping on hard compound tyres as teams began to change drivers for the afternoon session. Sainz ended the morning fastest, from Perez, Hamilton, Stroll, Norris, Albon, Magnussen, Ocon, Bottas and Ricciardo.

Afternoon – all change

With just over four hours of testing left, Oscar Piastri became the first of the afternoon drivers to take to the track for McLaren. The team had its work cut out to counter the clutch issue from the morning session. The MCL38 turned heads as it exited the garage covered in flow vis paint.

The track got busier with Alonso, Leclerc and Tsunoda. Gasly, Russell and Hulkenberg all venturing out for their first laps. No one bothered the top of the timesheets for the first thirty minutes, with the focus continuously on long runs.

All eyes centred on Max Verstappen as he took to the track on C3 tyres. He moved into P7, 1.4 seconds off his first flying lap pace. The Red Bull then continued its race runs. He later moved four-tenths clear.

A few drivers ran wide in the afternoon; Fernando Alonso ran over the kerb at turn 10 in an uncharacteristic move from the double world champion. A few laps later, at turn nine, a similar moment indicated a potential balance problem caused by a lack of rear grip.

Leclerc jumped to third with three and a half hours remaining, four-tenths behind his teammate. Verstappen took the top spot from Sainz just 10 minutes later, almost two-tenths clear.

Sauber made a return to the circuit after losing hours to an issue. Zhou Guanyu needed reliability for his stint in the car after a problematic overall test for the team.

Darkness falls – race runs

Once the teams began to complete what would be the first of their long, long runs, times began to drop as testing entered its last three hours. Alonso moved to P3, splitting the Ferraris. Leclerc responded by jumping to the top of the times, moving 0.354s clear of Verstappen on the soft C4 tyres. Verstappen responded with a lap o.346s away from Leclerc on a harder compound of tyres.

After more race runs, the teams appeared to have forgotten about the “golden hour” of final qualifying simulations. Leclerc improved on his time by just 0.87s, with two hours and 15 minutes remaining. Alonso lit up the timing pages in the first sector but could not convert the rest of the lap.

Piastri moved into P3 on C3 tyres as the last two hours of testing got underway. Verstappen reemerged onto the circuit on the hardest compound of tyre, C1. His RB20 covered in paint, the team resisting a glory run.

Alonso continued his long runs, lapping a good seven seconds off the pace of Leclerc’s Ferrari. Piastri’s degradation compared to Alonso could have been cause for alarm, losing over a second compared to the Aston Martin. Balance continued to be an issue for Alonso, the AMR24 not riding the kerbs well.

Mercedes’ pace on long runs proved difficult to quantify, but pundits believed the car is in the hunt for the second fastest on the grid. Verstappen’s pace on long runs was impressive, with minimal degradation and an advantage over the rest of the field. It, too, ran flow vis paint in the last hour as Red Bull gathered aero data.

George Russell won the first Mercedes vs Ferrari duel of the year, the Mercedes clearly on a different programme to Leclerc. The Ferrari had good long-run pace, with Piastri’s pace stabilising to match Leclerc’s.

High-speed runs – of sorts

Tsunoda put in his personal best times in the last 90 minutes, moving his RB into P9, 1.6 seconds away from Leclerc. On the C3 tyre, he improved again, the only car to attempt a low-fuel run at this stage. Most teams opted to fit the hard tyres and focus on yet more long runs for the final hour.

Albon kicked off the performance runs, fitting new C3 tyres to his car, but understeer ruined his day’s best lap. Moving to P12, the Williams could easily have been P7 or P8.

Russell was next to attempt a lap on new C3 tyres. His effort moved him into P3 briefly before Tsuonda demoted him to P4 with a good lap on soft C4 tyres.

Pierre Gasly hastily returned to the pit lane after part of his wheel arch detached itself from the Alpine.

Verstappen then took to the track on C2 tyres, the medium tyre for next week’s race, still not opting for a long run. Russell fitted more C3 tyres and set another personal best but was still unable to match the pace of Verstappen on the same tyre. Albon used his C4 tyres to move into P5.

With less than twenty minutes to go, Several teams tried soft tyre runs. Russell fitted the C4 tyres, his Mercedes looked planted, and he moved into P2, just 0.046s away from Leclerc. Zhou went next, moving into P3, as the virtual Safety car was deployed, followed by the red flag test.

After the start procedure test, pre-season testing ended, with no car stopping on track on the final day, the 2024 cars showing bulletproof reliability.

Leclerc’s time at the top of the timesheets remained unchallenged; with Russell’s strong late lap pace netting him P2. Zhou’s standout lap gave him P3. Verstappen ended the day in P4, his time ominously set on used C3 tyres. Tsunoda was P5, and Albon completed the top six.

Final Classification
Image Credit: Formula 1
Image Credit: Formula 1

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 




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