Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test

Leclerc sets fastest time of test so far after fault halts Bottas

2023 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc set the fastest time of the Bahrain test so far in the early session of the final day of running ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

Leclerc’s best time of a 1’31.024 on C4 tyres was comfortably quicker than any other driver so far in testing, with Russell going second-quickest on the C5 tyres, four tenths slower than the Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas suffered the only major problems of note in the session, stopping on track with just under 90 minutes remaining.

The final day of testing began with all ten teams quickly taking to the circuit. Sergio Perez had the Red Bull RB19 all to himself for the last day of running. He was sent out with a variety of aero rakes and sensors strapped to his car, but one of those small devices appeared to fall off the car at the exit of turn ten, prompting a quick red flag so a marshal could recover the debris.

After stopping on track with a hydraulic problem near the end of Friday’s evening running, Russell was back out early in the Mercedes. He set the early pace with a 1’33.685, before Nico Hulkenberg put Haas on top with a time three tenths faster than Russell.

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Oscar Piastri had his final session of the test in the McLaren MCL60. The rookie suffered a 360 degree spin, losing control of the car over the bumps entering turn nine and the difficult downhill braking zone for turn ten. He recovered back onto the track without issue, before improving on his next lap to go second behind Hulkenberg.

Perez put in a 1’33.167 to claim the top spot for Red Bull for the first time in the day. But then Russell took to the circuit on C4 soft tyres and clocked comfortably the fastest time of the session with a 1’31.707, just half a tenth away from Max Verstappen’s personal best time from Friday. Soon after, Mercedes opted to send him back on on the softest C5 compound and he improved by over a tenth to set a new overall best time of the test with a 1’31.564, better than Zhou Guanyu’s best time from yesterday.

Mercedes’ time at the top was short-lived, however, as Leclerc jumped to the top of the times with a 1’31.164. Not only was Leclerc’s new fastest time over a quarter of a second quicker than Russell’s previous best, the Ferrari driver had set it on C4 soft tyres, rather than the C5s on which Russell had set his quickest time. Soon after, Leclerc shaved a tenth off his own best time, lowering the best lap of the test to a 1’31.024.

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With 80 minutes remaining before the lunch break, the session was interrupted by a red flag. Valtteri Bottas had suffered a problem on his Alfa Romeo and pulled off the circuit on the approach to turn eight, causing the second stoppage of the day. After a 15 minute delay, the session resumed and the final hour was mostly dedicated to longer, higher-fuel runs.

There was another test of the Safety Car system and procedures in the final 15 minutes of the session, with Piastri and Russell both taking advantage of a clear track to conduct a practice start on the grid. The chequered flag signalled the end of the session, with Leclerc quickest ahead of Russell and Aston Martin driver Felipe Drugovich third fastest, a second slower than Leclerc’s best.

AlphaTauri achieved the most laps of the session with Nyck de Vries closing out his pre-season with 87 laps, while Russell gained back some mileage after his Friday evening hydraulic problems by covering 83 laps. McLaren had the lowest distance of the ten teams, with Piastri clocking 44 laps. Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon also fell short of the race distance of 57 laps.

2023 F1 pre-season Bahrain test – Day three, session one times:

Pos. Car number Driver Team Model Best time Gap Laps
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’31.024 67
2 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’31.442 0.418 83
3 34 Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin AMR23 1’32.075 1.051 77
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull RB19 1’32.459 1.435 69
5 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine A523 1’32.762 1.738 56
6 23 Alexander Albon Williams FW45 1’32.793 1.769 53
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas VF-23 1’33.329 2.305 77
8 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren MCL60 1’33.655 2.631 44
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo C43 1’36.854 5.830 72
10 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri AT04 1’38.244 7.220 87

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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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3 comments on “Leclerc sets fastest time of test so far after fault halts Bottas”

  1. Toto Wolff to Viaplay Finland:

    “You are not confident you can challenge Red Bull and Ferrari, who seems to be really strong?
    Toto: No, we have to be realistic. Our car is not strong enough at the moment to really fight at the front. At least not in testing. We have to consolidate and see where we are really.

    Compared to last year you had really big problems. Was that as big as the problems you have now? Or is it something you can fix quicker than last year, with the bouncing and everything?
    Toto: I think we can fix it quicker because the problems are not as big, but I think that the train with Red Bull has left the station.”

    1. Testing is just a load of sandbagging really, both from the cars on track and the people on the teams giving interviews. Wouldn’t pay any attention to what he’s saying.

    2. @spafrancorchamps Interesting words by him (pretty much sentiment too) & you seemingly use the same broadcaster as I do or just found out about the interview some other way.

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