Verstappen ends opening day on top in Bahrain

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F1 Test, Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Double world champion Max Verstappen ended the first day on top of the timesheets, beating Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Max Verstappen set the benchmark in the morning session on Day 1 of the Official Pre-Season Testing in Bahrain, and the reigning world champion could hang on to the first spot in the afternoon by chipping further away from his best time. In the end, the reigning world champion ended the day fastest with a time of 1m32.837s. Even more impressive was his lap tally as he completed a total of 157 laps which was certainly a shock to his body following the lengthy winter period.

The first half of the day belonged to Felipe Drugovich at the Aston Martin team, who replaced the injured Lance Stroll for the first session of the three-day running at the Bahrain International Circuit. After notching up a total of 40 laps, the Brazilian handed over the AMR23 to new recruit Fernando Alonso, who missed the day’s benchmark by only 0.029s to finish second.

Ferrari were third and fourth with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively. However, Ferrari seemed to suffer from extreme porpoising and serious balance problems with the new SF23 presenting itself nervous both on corner entry and exit.

The five-time F1 race winner Leclerc commented: “We completed 64 laps trying a bit of everything. We worked on the set-up, did some tire evaluation tests and some aerodynamic tests with different fuel levels. We will analyze all the data collected to be ready for tomorrow."

Rookie Oscar Piastri gave McLaren’s new car its test debut in Bahrain on Thursday with Lando Norris taking over the MCL60 for the afternoon session. The Bristol-born driver carried out several low fuel runs in the closing stages of the session to end fifth fastest with a total of 40 laps. McLaren however lost precious time in the pitlane right after the lunch break as mechanics had to resolve too much flexibility in the front wheel arches.

Following their troublesome season in 2022, Mercedes completed a successful and promising start to the three-day testing. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton completed 69 and 83 laps respectively with the seven-time world champion ending the day higher up in the standing with a time of 1m33.508s that was enough for him to secure P6.

Reflecting on the first day, Team Principal Toto Wolff was delighted to see the all-black W14 work as expected: “It seems to be balanced in the right way. There's no bouncing, which is good news apart from the big bump at the end of the straight.

“It’s a good starting point. We are gathering a lot of data because that was important to correlate obviously after last year, and trying different things.”

Williams also had a promising day at Bahrain with Alexander Albon and rookie Logan Sargeant ending up seventh and tenth fastest. The two drivers completed a total of 145 laps, providing the Grove-based outfit’s engineers with plenty of data to go through before the action continues tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu posted the eighth-fastest time with his team mate Valtteri Bottas securing the 12th fastest time. The Swiss-Italian team was plagued by a raft of technical issues during last year’s winter testing, but the reliability of their 2023 car has been nearly perfect so far.

F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg placed 11th as he got to grips with Haas’ new car with the German racer completing 51 laps. His Danish team mate Kevin Magnussen finished at the bottom of the timesheets with a tally of 57 laps.

Yuki Tsunoda was 15th for AlphaTauri while his new team mate Nyck de Vries ended up two places higher up in the standings. The pair notched up a total of 131 laps on the opening day, proving the reliability of their all-new AT04.