Max Verstappen Leads F1 Field at Pre-season Testing Inaugural Day in Bahrain
Max Verstappen and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to drive during day one of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit. February 21, 2024. Bahrain. Photo courtesy: Mark Thompson/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool.

Formula 1 2024 pre-season testing set off in Bahrain on Wednesday as the drivers took their new cars to the track, putting the first laps on the board ahead of a record-breaking 24-race calendar with three-time World Champion Max Verstappen, finishing at the top of the timesheet.

Ahead of a much anticipated 2024 Formula One season, the inaugural day of pre-season testing, running from Wednesday through Friday, allowed teams and drivers to get familiar with their new challengers, gathering pivotal data over the morning and afternoon sessions held in Bahrain.

A first look at the charts suggests the risks Adrian Newey took by revealing an aggressive aerodynamic concept for the Red Bull Racing RB20 were, as expected, calculated with exquisite precision.

However, lap times are not necessarily a reliable performance indicator at testing when teams try different configurations, focussing on the development process.

On board the RB20, triple Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen finished the day on top of the charts, completing 142 laps while recording the fastest time of 1:31.344, a second and a half quicker than his opening mark last season at testing.

The Dutch testing program featured five low-fuel performance runs, helping to extend the gap over McLaren’s Lando Norris, who drove 73 laps, setting the second-fastest lap time (1:32.484), and Scuderia Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who accomplished 69 laps to end up third (1:32.584).

According to Pirelli, the Italian tire manufacturer provides each team with 35 sets of slick tires, of which each can fit 30, including two sets of intermediates and two full wets if required.

Verstappen will be back at the wheel on Thursday afternoon, sharing driving duties with teammate Sergio Perez, who will drive the new car in the morning session, returning on Friday for a whole day of on-track action.

Except for Red Bull and Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, all the other teams have chosen to split day one with both their racers on driving duty.

Behind the wheel of the new W15, Briton George Russell covered 660km, or 122 laps, including a full race simulation in the afternoon, finishing with a best lap time of 1:34.109.

Russell shared his first impressions in Bahrain, outlining: “We completed lots of laps and have plenty of data to go through. We can build from here over the next two days.”

We will be focused on maximizing mileage for learning rather than chasing an optimum sweet spot with the car.

Adding: “We know it’s not about the feeling, but the speed. Today was about learning and not about chasing performance.”

It was a positive first day, and I’m looking forward to being back in the car on Friday.”

Lewis Hamilton will take over the W15 for the entire day on Thursday, splitting driving sessions with Russell on Friday.

2024 is the seven-time F1 world champion farewell season to Mercedes before moving to Ferrari in 2025.

Meanwhile, Aston Martin kicked off the morning session with Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the cockpit of the brand-new contender, the AMR24.

Overall, the most experienced Grand Prix driver at the pinnacle of motorsport drove 416.7km, recording 77 laps, while Lance Stroll stepped in the car in the afternoon, achieving 54 laps.

Assessing the opening day at the Bahrain International Circuit, Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team Principal Mike Krack stressed: “Overall, it’s been a smooth, productive, and positive first official day of testing here in Bahrain. Between them, Lance and Fernando completed 131 laps at the wheel of the AMR24, and we achieved everything we set out to in our program for day one.”

He also offered an insight into the drivers’ outings, commenting: “Weather conditions were good today, but the wind kept us on our toes and made life a little harder at times for the drivers on track, which is not uncommon at Bahrain International Circuit.

It’s the same challenge for everybody, but Lance and Fernando dealt with it well.”

Moreover, Krack added: “We focused on systems and reliability checks and validation of aerodynamic performance. The car is responding well to changes, and we have a wealth of data to review this evening.

We learn something new about the car with every lap, and we’re looking forward to returning to the track tomorrow to continue our testing program.”

See the full-time sheet on the C3 compound by Pirelli below:

Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, asserted: “We collected data that will be useful in assessing how progress made by all the teams with their new cars in terms of aerodynamic downforce will impact tire behavior.”

Furthermore, we have seen teams adopt different approaches, especially when it came to the long runs: for example, some, such as Ferrari and Williams, focussed on a single compound, working on adapting the car set-up to get it working at its best, while others like Mercedes and Red Bull, worked with various compounds.”

The FIA Formula One World Championship will launch the 2024 season with the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

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