Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test

Red Bull comfortably quickest as Perez leads Hamilton in final test

2023 F1 season

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Sergio Perez put Red Bull on top of the times on the final day of testing in Bahrain with a lap over three tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.

Perez’s fastest time set on C4 tyres was faster than Hamilton’s despite the Mercedes setting its best lap on the softer C5 compound. Neither specification of tyre has been allocated for the season-opening race at the Bahrain International Circuit with weekend.

Valtteri Bottas put Alfa Romeo third at the end of testing, ahead of Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

The final session of testing began with Hamilton, Sainz, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda and Kevin Magnussen all taking to their cars, joining Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon who remained at the wheel from the first session.

Interactive: Compare all 10 F1 cars of 2023 side-by-side
After lap times had fallen in the earlier running, the new drivers joining the circuit seemed to take things far more steadily over the first hour of the evening session. Bottas had suffered a car problem and stopped on-track earlier in the day and he remained in the garage for the first hour as the team worked on his car. Eventually he was able to rejoin the track with well over three hours of track time still remaining.

Alonso was the last driver to take to the track, putting in 10 laps before returning to the garage. He became the highest-ranked of the evening drivers by posting a time good enough for sixth place on the day, before Hamilton split the Aston Martin driver from his team mate Felipe Drugovich, who stood in for the injured Lance Stroll again in the morning.

As the temperatures began to fall, so did the lap times. Sainz used a set of C4 tyres to set the overall best first sector of the day and almost matched team mate Leclerc’s best time from the early session, lapping just 0.012 slower, to move up to second place.

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With the sun having set, Hamilton took to the track on C4 soft tyres and put in Mercedes’ quickest time of the test. That was two tenths of a second slower than Leclerc’s best from the afternoon but two tenths faster than team mate George Russell’s time from the early session on C5 tyres. With less than 90 minutes remaining, Hamilton stuck a set of the softest, C5 tyres on his car and became the first driver to break under the 1’31 barrier with a 1’30.781.

Gallery: Bahrain test day three in pictures
Red Bull then took to the track with C4 tyres on Perez’s RB19. He set the quickest middle and final sector of the test to claim the top spot with a 1’30.616, 0.165s quicker than Hamilton’s previous best. Not to be outdone, Hamilton returned to the track on C5 tyres and went fastest overall in the first sector, but could not dislodge Perez from the top spot, falling half a tenth short.

With under an hour to go, Perez went even quicker, shaving two tenths off his own best to put in a 1’30.305, quicker than Leclerc’s pole position time from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Bottas moved up to third in the Alfa Romeo on the C5 tyres, almost two-tenths of a second faster than the two Ferraris.

There were no improvements at the top of the times over the final half an hour. For the final time, the session was red flagged in the final minutes for another procedural test. After a formation lap test led into a rolling start, a handful of drivers indulged in a mock race over half a lap, with Bottas diving up the inside of Perez into turn eight before the drivers mutually called off their sparring.

Perez’s best time saw Red Bull end testing as the fastest team from the three days, with Hamilton putting Mercedes second ahead of Bottas and the two Ferrari drivers. Alexander Albon covered the most distance with 136 laps, a handful ahead of Perez and Bottas who also completed a full day of running.

Once more, McLaren had the fewest laps completed of any team in the final session, with Lando Norris only covering in 37 laps in the MCL60.

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2023 F1 pre-season Bahrain test: Day three session two times

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
111Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’30.305133
244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’30.6640.35965
377Valtteri BottasAlfa RomeoC431’30.8270.522131
416Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’31.0240.71967
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’31.0360.73176
622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriAT041’31.2610.95679
720Kevin MagnussenHaasVF-231’31.3811.07695
863George RussellMercedesW141’31.4421.13783
914Fernando AlonsoAston MartinAMR231’31.4501.14580
1034Felipe DrugovichAston MartinAMR231’32.0751.77077
114Lando NorrisMcLarenMCL601’32.1601.85537
1210Pierre GaslyAlpineA5231’32.7622.45756
1323Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW451’32.7932.488136
1431Esteban OconAlpineA5231’33.2572.95276
1527Nico HulkenbergHaasVF-231’33.3293.02477
1681Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL601’33.6553.35044
1721Nyck de VriesAlphaTauriAT041’38.2447.93987

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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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19 comments on “Red Bull comfortably quickest as Perez leads Hamilton in final test”

  1. As predicted the RedBull will be the front runner. We didn’t really need testing to predict as much following on from their strong 2022 season. I’d be amazed if their advantage wasn’t bigger than the end of last season too which is a shame. I wouldn’t mind if Perez was able to actually challenge Verstappen, but they’ll have the usual .3-.5 difference.

    Mercedes look dreadful. The car was off the circuit at almost every corner on anything harder than the C3. It looked a real handful and wasn’t remotely quick until they threw the softest tyres on. The times look closer, but Pirelli say the time between the C5 and C4 should be .5-.8 so realistically Hamilton was at least a second off Perez today.

    Ferrari don’t look to have been chasing overall lap time but the car does look good. Not RedBull good, but easily 2nd fastest by some margin.

    McLaren and Alpine have plenty of work to do. By far the worst looking cars on track with the most drivability issues. The Alpine bouncing looks very odd.

    Overall it’s really calmed my expectations for next week. I had hoped Mercedes and Ferrari would be able to close the gap, but from what I’ve seen this week the gap has 100% extended.

    1. Yesterday (2nd day) yes, the Mercs looked a handful.
      Today was much better. In fact Russell’s long run on the C1 in the first half of today (3rd day) when it was really hot was really good!
      For short runs on C4 or C5, although the C5 is a faster tyre, it’s probably too soft for/on this track. Hamilton couldn’t improve on his sector 3 time on the C5 (a sign that tyre is ‘gone’ by the time he got to that sector) and Perez was also 0.3s slower on the C5 compared to his C4 time!.
      So don’t discount the Mercs yet!

    2. Lewis set his fastest final sector time on the harder C4. Pirelli’s C5 is not 0.5-0.8s faster. Atleast not at Bahrain.

      1. I watched the coverage and the guy from Pirelli literally said the gap between compounds is bigger this year and went through the times based on the analysis they’ve got so far.

        1. Did you watch the coverage where the cars drove 0.5-0.8 faster on the C5 than on the C4? Help me find it.

        2. And you actually still believe anything a Pirelli representative says…

  2. My competitive order estimation for the season-opener:
    AM (at least with Alonso, so teammate be that Stroll or Drugovich might mix towards the tail-end)
    Mclaren could also be even lower, but for now, I’m positive they won’t be as much down the field as in the last Bahrain GP, while Haas & AT are the hardest for conclusions.

  3. Hope folks are happy ves gna just repeat what Ham did but worst

    1. Hamiltons records gna be smashed Perez aint a challenge like Bottas but atleast Bottas had a good lap in him

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      25th February 2023, 17:33

      I didn’t enjoy Hamilton dominating and I won’t enjoy Verstappen doing the same. It’s a shame F1 always ends up being like this….

      Having said that, lots did seem to enjoy watching Lewis dominate every race though so I guess they’ll be ok with it.

      1. Lewis had fast teamates so at least there were fights for pole and the odd win. Verstappen’s teammate is average in qualifying and not allowed to fight him for wins.

        1. He’s allowed to fight for the win if fast enough, there were cases of team orders when verstappen was 1 sec quicker per lap, you don’t go anywhere with that pace.

  4. Is it me or Hamilton’s onboards look like when he was at Mclaren with a really pointy car while Russell’s looked less or even a lot less pointy..?

  5. I wonder how long it will take the hype fans to realize that Red Bull dominating for the next 5 seasons is the only thing they will see and move onto the next thing?

    1. Nah, they will be challenged in the 2nd half of the season, if not earlier by the Mercs!
      And they will be challenged by Ferrari in the 1st half!

      1. Hopefully, but that would definitely be going against the trend of the last 70 years.

      2. I suspect Mercedes or Ferrari, possibly both, may start to be able to challenge by the second half of the season. However, by then RBR will have enough of a lead to still comfortably take both championships, and will only be falling back because they will be concentrating their resources on next year’s car (because they won’t need much in season development on this car to win).

  6. For goodness sake McLaren, sort it out!!!

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