Things we learned from Day 1 of 2023 Pre-Season Testing

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F1 Test, Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Following a lengthy winter period, Formula 1 is finally back with teams and drivers busy to complete the sole three-day pre-season test in Bahrain. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó analyses the key moments from day one of pre-season testing.

The most diligent – Following their troubles in 2022, Mercedes has had a much smoother start to the preparation for the forthcoming season, covering high mileage without any problems on the opening day of the sole pre-season testing. The Anglo-German outfit registered a total of 159 laps thanks to the efforts of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Second on this list was Red Bull (157) with reigning champion Max Verstappen having driven diligently and without any lengthy interruptions on Thursday. Williams racked up the third highest mileage (149 laps), followed by Alfa Romeo (138), Ferrari (136), AlphaTauri (131), Alpine (113), Haas (108) and Aston Martin (100). McLaren was the only team to stay below the 100-lap mark.

Balance issues – After completing 115kms at their Fiorano test track during a demonstration and filming day last week, Ferrari intended to learn as much as possible about the new car on the first day of testing. The team stated that they had three main objectives for the day: the usual aerodynamic mapping of the car, effectively correlating the data acquired on track with that seen in the wind tunnel and in digital modelling, checking all functions on the car and setup work.

Although there were no apparent reliability issues, the balance of the car seemed to be inconsistent throughout the whole day. Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc experienced an unstable rear end in all types of corners.

The Spaniard commented: "Overall a positive first day. Reliability was good and we could run smoothly, covering the whole run plan and gathering valuable data, which is encouraging. We progressed well with the setup during the day and we also managed to get good reads on the tyres we tested in Abu Dhabi so, overall good progress made so far and I’m looking forward to continuing tomorrow".

Reflecting on a difficult day, the Monegasque said: "We have a busy first day of testing behind us. We completed 64 laps on my side, testing a bit of everything. Our focus was on set-up work, combined with some tyre and aero testing, as well as runs with different fuel levels. We’re going to analyse our data now and I look forward to another session tomorrow".

Happy faces – It was a productive first day of pre-season testing for Mercedes in Bahrain. The Brackley-based outfit completed an extensive programme, focusing on learning, correlation, and data gathering with the W14.

George Russell drove in the morning, initially running with aero rakes before switching to set-up work halfway through the session. He logged 69 laps of running and posted a best time of 1m34.174s on the C3 tyre.

Lewis Hamilton took over for the second half of the day, completing 83 laps and finishing with a fastest time of a 1m33.508s also on the C3 tyre. Following baseline running to begin the session, the focus switched to long runs and a tyre compound sweep as the sun set.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin commented: “We’ve had a solid start to testing. The car has run faultlessly from start to finish and that has allowed us to complete an ambitious programme for day one.

“It always takes a few days to understand a new car, but we’ve got a reasonable handle on where we want to improve the balance. It was encouraging that it’s a much calmer, more stable platform to work with than the W13. The performance picture is always blurred after the first day so it’s impossible to say where we stand, but we’ve already identified several key areas where we can find some performance,” Shovlin concluded.

So far so good – Reigning world champion Max Verstappen is aiming to win his third world title on the bounce in 2023. The first day indicated that his car will be a frontrunner again after finishing on top of the timesheets on Day 1 of pre-season testing.

The Dutchman completed a mammoth 157 laps as he outpaced new Aston Martin recruit Alonso by just 0.029s and the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Commenting on his first official day in the RB19, Verstappen said: “We had a good day today, we completed a lot of laps which is what we wanted - almost three Grand Prix’s worth. It was also a smooth day; we barely had any issues and we could really focus on the car and try a few things. We had a lot of good running throughout the day when it was hot and sunny and also in the evening which is more representative. It’s nice to see how the car has evolved from last year.

“The behaviour is a bit different because of the tyres but otherwise, we are happy. It’s difficult to tell how the car will perform this season through one day of testing, the car is running well and that’s the most important thing. I’ll be running again tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll be trying out different compounds and seeing what else we can learn before the race next week."

Nice turnaround - Aston Martin started the day on the back foot when electrical gremlins brought Felipe Drugovich to a halt and caused the only red flag interruption of the day. However, the Silverstone-based outfit managed to bounce back by finding remedy to the technical problems and sending the Brazilian out on track ahead of the lunch break.

In the afternoon, the team’s new recruit Fernando Alonso grabbed attention with some quick laps in the closing stages of the session.

Commenting on his first day with the new car, the two-time world champion said: “Overall I am pleased with the first official day of testing here in Bahrain in the AMR23. As a team, we reached 100 laps in total, which is a strong start for the first day despite some minor issues that we resolved.

“We are still experimenting with lots of different things, so every lap we do is important and we learn something new about the car every time we go out. These first steps are always intriguing and so far I am enjoying this part of the winter preparation. We will use the information and learning from today to optimise things further tomorrow.”

Highest-placed rookie – Williams is set to complete the 2023 with a new driver pairing with Logan Sargeant joining Alexander Albon at the Grove-based outfit. Sargeant, who will be the first American in F1 since Alexander Rossi’s departure in 2015, ended the day as the highest-placed rookie in P10.

The team completed a total of 149 laps on the opening day of pre-season testing, concentrating on aero and setup work.

Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson added: “We had a productive day of testing and completed everything that we planned. The drivers shared the workload and each now has one full day of testing before the opening race of the season. Both drove well today and quickly found a rhythm and confidence with the car.

“The FW45 ran reliably all day and we found no major issues. With only three days of pre-season testing, this is very important. Conditions today were a little tricky, with the wind gusts affecting the car’s behaviour, and the tyre performance changing as the track temperature varied. But this is typical for Bahrain and almost certainly representative of what we will face next weekend,” Robson said.

The super sub – After completing his F1 debut at last year’s Italian Grand Prix, new AlphaTauri signing De Vries jumped into the AT04 following Yuki Tsunoda’s morning session and ended the day with 85 laps to his name.

De Vries commented: “Today was our first day back on track with the AT04 at pre-season testing. In terms of execution and reliability, we had a positive day.

“Conditions were quite challenging with high track temperatures and strong winds, although this was the same for everybody. Ultimately, we went through the programme and even if it’s early, we continue to work on learning about our car and gathering as much data as possible.“