Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test

Verstappen quickest in new Red Bull RB19 as testing begins in Bahrain

2023 F1 season

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World champion Max Verstappen set the pace in the morning session on day one of pre-season Formula 1 testing in Bahrain.

In a quiet beginning to the only pre-season test, Red Bull set the pace three tenths ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jnr, with Alexander Albon third for Williams.

As usual the start of the first day of testing saw teams running with large aero rakes on their car to gather as much initial data as they could. All 10 cars ventured out on the track as the pit lane opened.

But less than ten minutes into the session, Felipe Drugovich pulled his Aston Martin AMR23 off the circuit at the exit of turn four with an electrical problem, bringing out the first red flag of the test.

Alexander Albon, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Gallery: 2023 F1 pre-season testing day one in pictures
After a delay of 20 minutes, the session resumed with the other nine cars taking back to the track. Verstappen set the first notable lap time of the test with a 1’35.655, before taking another eight tenths of a second off that soon after. Sainz had the privilege of running the Ferrari in the morning and he moved to the top of the times with a 1’33.767.

Just over an hour after stopping on track, Drugovich returned to the circuit in the Aston Martin. However, he returned to the pits after a single lap, with his electrical problem seemingly not resolved. Nico Hulkenberg lost a part of his front wing running over the kerb at the fast right-hander of turn six, but this did not affect Haas’ morning programme.

Times gradually got quicker as the track warmed up. Sainz improved to a 1’33.253, with Verstappen going three tenths slower than the Ferrari driver. Albon put the Williams FW45 third, four tenths slower than Sainz, with Zhou Guanyu half a tenth behind Albon in fourth.

With just under 40 minutes remaining until the lunch break, Verstappen set a new benchmark with a 1’32.959 on the C3 compound tyres, almost three tenths faster than Sainz’s previous best lap. The rest of the session ran without incident, with only a late scheduled Virtual Safety Car test interrupting proceedings.

As the chequered flag signalled the end of running, Verstappen remained on top of the times. Sainz was second-fastest, but set the quickest final sector in the session. Albon put Williams third, seven tenths behind Verstappen, with Zhou ahead of Russell’s Mercedes and Hulkenberg sixth in the Haas.

The majority of the teams covered a full race distance in the early session – only Haas, Aston Martin, AlphaTauri and McLaren failed to cover 300km in the early running. Williams covered the most laps of any team – 74 – only two ahead of Ferrari and three ahead of Red Bull. Unsurprisingly following their earlier electrical trouble, Aston Martin had the fewest laps with 40.

2023 F1 pre-season Bahrain testing: Day one, early session

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’32.95971
255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’33.2530.29472
323Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW451’33.6710.71274
424Zhou GuanyuAlfa RomeoC431’33.7230.76467
563George RussellMercedesW141’34.1741.21569
627Nico HulkenbergHaasVF-231’34.4241.46551
734Felipe DrugovichAston MartinAMR231’34.5641.60540
822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriAT041’34.6711.71246
910Pierre GaslyAlpineA5231’34.8221.86360
1081Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL601’34.8881.92952

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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14 comments on “Verstappen quickest in new Red Bull RB19 as testing begins in Bahrain”

  1. Petition to leave the orange spray paint on the Williams, so there is at least 1 non-bland livery in the field.

    1. Yeah, it looks amazing!

    2. @amian @bascb Admittedly, I also find the orange flow-vis paint fitting, so I wouldn’t mind if it stayed.

    3. I like the orange on the Williams as well. It’s their orange, go-faster stripes judging by this morning’s performance.

    4. it looks like a McLaren gone wrong

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        23rd February 2023, 14:14

        So… it looks like a McLaren then?

  2. How on earth is that Ferrari front wing legal?

    1. @Lee1
      I don’t see anything illegal in it, although I could tell more confidently if I were an aerodynamicist or engineer.

      1. It looks so similar to the Merc wing that was banned last year. The turning vanes masquerading as slot gap separators surely were outlawed?

        1. They were definitely illegal last year, but I’ve seen something about a section of regs being removed this season and they are now legal (to do with primary and secondary uses for aero effect). Although I can’t see why that would have been done, unless it’s been determined that they’re not detrimental to the following airflow?

          1. @j1jem

            about a section of regs being removed this season

            I heard it was a single word that changed which apparently made the Ferrari solution legal.

          2. Which begs the question as to why Merc have not brought an updated version of theirs back.

          3. petebaldwin (@)
            23rd February 2023, 14:15

            @ Lee1 – they probably already know it works and are holding it back until the first race. They’re going to be more bothered about making sure the car doesn’t bounce and that the data correlates to what their simulator is saying as opposed to chasing performance.

  3. Wonderful to see the Pedro de la Rosa (Aston Martin) interview. Warmed me ‘eart!

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