Things we learned from Day 2 of 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 two of pre-season testing.

Best sectors - Zhou Guanyu ended the second day of testing fastest ahead of Max Verstappen with the Chinese driver setting the benchmark with a time of 1m31.610s. On his way to the best lap, the Shanghai-born racer set the best times in Sector 2 and 3 with a 39.426s and 22.938s respectively. In the first sector, it was Red Bull to register the best time with a 29.142s.

Combining the best times of each team, it would be Red Bull to top the timesheets with a 1m31.604s. Alpha Romeo would be second on this list only 6 thousands of a second shy of the Austrian-Anglo squad, followed by AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Ferrari. Haas and Williams are still within one second on the list of the best ideal lap time with Alpine and McLaren around 1.5s off the pace. Interestingly, Mercedes finds at the bottom of this list, 1.839s off Red Bull’s best ideal lap time.

High mileage – After two days of running, Williams have completed 303 laps with AlphaTauri (290) and Red Bull (280) also having gathered valuable mileage. Ferrari has registered 274 laps so far, followed by Alfa Romeo (270). Despite today’s reliability struggles, Mercedes have logged in 260 laps of running with Haas (241), McLaren (231), Aston Martin (230) and Alpine (221) rounding out this list.

Ominous pace – While this world has become somewhat of a funny phrase among fans, it perfectly describes Red Bull’s performance both on short and long runs so far in Bahrain. Double world champion Max Verstappen topped Day 1 of testing and set 157 laps in the process with completing another 47 laps today.

The Dutchman commented: “Today we focussed on the smaller details and took little steps. Again, the car was responding well to everything we did. We learnt a lot for next weekend and of course for future races as well.

“I’m very pleased with the testing period, every time I jumped in the car I felt comfortable and could push instantly. A massive credit to everyone back at the factory, working throughout the whole of winter and even last year to prepare the car we have now. To see it on track and how it behaves on track is great. We’ll have to see how quick we will be next week but I’m feeling positive.”

As for his team mate, Sergio Perez made his 2023 pre-season testing debut on Friday morning and will finish the test by spending the whole of Saturday behind the wheel.

The Mexican added: “I was happy to be back behind the wheel of the RB19 this morning. We mainly focussed on the long run, to make sure the car was reliable and that was the main priority. The car feels good, we have a good pace and hopefully we can get some good fine tuning in on Saturday.

“There are little differences to the RB18, which are mainly dictated by the change to the tyres but generally speaking it is pretty similar. I am happy in the car and I think we are in a good place. Now I am looking forward to getting a full day in the car tomorrow. We will do some good simulations for the race and try to prepare as much as possible for qualifying too.”

The most diligent rookie – After notching up the highest mileage among the three rookie drivers, Logan Sargeant topped the mileage charts with 154 laps as he conducted a full day of running for Williams and finished seventh.

The former F2 driver set his own benchmark at a 1m32.549s on Pirelli’s C4 compound.

Sargeant commented: I think today tops the most kilometres I’ve ever done in a day. I was able to physically hold up well. We got through so much running which is a testament to the team and the hard work they’ve put in. We moved in the right direction the whole day and it was really positive.

We looked at shorter runs this morning and considering where the track temp was, I was relatively happy with how the car was feeling. Throughout the long runs this afternoon the car was in a good window and I could drive it exactly how I wanted to. There are still somethings we’re chasing but I’ll leave that up to Alex tomorrow. Overall, I’m really happy with where we’ve got the car and I can’t wait to go racing next week.

Improved balance – Ferrari seemingly did not enjoy yesterday with both drivers suffering from balance issues on the hot surface of the Bahrain International Circuit. The team indicated today that they were experimenting with setup solutions that they are unable to try out on a normal race weekend due to the time constraints.

This theory turned out to be true today with both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz enjoying a smoother day with a stable, calm SF23. Ferrari’s 2023 car completed a further 138 laps (747 kilometres) with the Spaniard continuing the work on set-up and tyre evaluation, running Pirelli’s prototype compound and the C3.

The Monegasque also worked on set-up, as well as evaluating the C2 compound tyres followed by the C3, with which he set his best time of 1’32”725. In the final part of the session, he ran in race trim with a heavier fuel load, bringing his total laps for the day to 68.

Sainz added: "It’s been another positive day. Reliability was again very good and we've been able to explore all the set-ups we targeted to test. We keep exploring the limits of the car and finding potential areas where we can maximise performance. The main target is to keep up the good work tomorrow and get ready for next week"

Leclerc, who will driver the car first on the final morning, commented: "We ran various tests today, with our main focus on the car’s set-up. We are working hard and it’s still too early to make any judgement yet. It was good to get some more laps down and we will keep pushing forward by analysing our data ahead of the last day of testing tomorrow."

Tough day - Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin was left with positive feelings after the team’s performance on the opening day of the Bahrain test. The team’s 2023 car showed no signs of severe porpoising which was one of the reasons for the eight-time world champion outfit’s unusual performance level in 2022.

However, the Brackley-based squad endured a less than ideal day today after their afternoon programme curtailed owing to an hydraulic failure. Prior to that, Mercedes were able to gather valuable data. Lewis Hamilton logged 72 tours of the Bahrain International Circuit across the morning session.

George Russell ook over the W14 for the afternoon starting with aero rake work. Following some balance checks, the team wanted to complete long run simulation, but the aforementioned hydraulic failure ended the day prematurely.

Commenting on the difficult day, Showlin said: “We’ve got some investigations going on to understand why this has been such a challenge today when yesterday it was fairly straight forward. That work will continue into the night and no doubt we’ll understand more come the morning. It will be interesting tomorrow to see if we can understand the drop in performance and mitigate the lost track time.”

Hamilton added: “It was a difficult morning. The hot temperatures made it challenging with the tyres overheating, as we often see here in Bahrain.

“We got through our run plan though and it was good to get that mileage in. Everyone is working incredibly hard, staying focused, and we’re discovering everything we can about the W14. We’ve got lots of work planned for the final day of pre-season testing tomorrow.”

Constructive feedback – That was the phrase with which Aston Martin’s Team Principal Mike Krack summarized today’s work. It was Fernando Alonso behind the wheel of the all-new AMR23 with the Spaniard spending a complete day with his new car.

Alonso logged in 130 laps of running, ending the day 0.595s off the pace that was set by Zhou Guanyu with a late flying lap on soft compounds on Day 2 of test.

The two-time world champion added: “It was a good day for us with a lot of laps completed – just what you need in a new car. We had a busy programme and tried a lot of different things. After a long winter it is good to get strong mileage under your belt early on and there is no better training than driving a Formula One car.

“I now feel fitter and sharper ahead of next week, which will be my first race with Aston Martin and I am very excited about that. I have another half day tomorrow so we will use this to continue learning and collecting as much data as possible. I am looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow afternoon.”

In the absence of Lance Stroll, the Silverstone-based outfit decided that reserve driver Felipe Drugovich will drive on Saturday morning before Alonso completes the test.

Question marks – McLaren and Alpine, the two teams that were locked in a close fight for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship last year, have been anonymous so far in Bahrain.

Today’s test saw Alpine's Pierre Gasly round out the top 10 while his team mate Esteban Ocon ended up 12th after lapping 49 times in the morning. Despite the low-key showing, the French team has been pleased with the work carried out so far.

Speaking after jumping out of the cockpit, Ocon said: [We are] much more ready that we were last year. Last year we were struggling quite a lot with the car, just to keep it going on the track, and this year that is not the case at all. We almost completed the plans on Pierre’s side, and my side, so it is definitely better.

“I feel it’s been a good test. Good to obviously have a first feel with the proper conditions that we are going to have during the race weekend. Previous to that, it was obviously very different in Europe for the filming days, for the tyre [tests].”

He continued: "We’ve learned a lot in the first two days, it’s been not a stressful one. We took it time by time, run by run, and it's a good understanding going on.”

While McLaren has admitted it failed to hit development targets with its 2023 Formula 1 car, it did not want to hear from any severe problems, stressing that their two days have been productive so far. On Day 2 of Pre-Season Testing, Oscar Piastri finished ninth with his team mate Lando Norris 16th overall after a productive morning.

Commenting on today’s work, new Team Principal Andrea Stella said: "It was a positive day for the team. The car has been reliable, and we have recovered some of the mileage we were short of yesterday. Lando went through some basic tests in the morning which weren’t performance focused. We have also saved the Soft tyres for day three where Lando will run in conditions which are more representative of a race weekend.

"Oscar’s runs today have been more focused on the race weekend preparation with a range of different setups. We are happy we have achieved all these objectives on day two and look forward to a positive final test day on track tomorrow."