Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Perez fastest as Alonso’s Aston Martin split the Red Bulls in practice

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix first practice

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Sergio Perez retained his position as the quickest driver in pre-season testing by topping the times in first practice in Bahrain, ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Perez’s best time of a 1’32.758 was just under half a second quicker than Alonso, who himself was faster than the second Red Bull driver of Max Verstappen.

As expected, conditions were clear and warm as the opening timed session of the 2023 session got underway. All 10 cars that set a lap time in the first 10 minutes did so using the medium compound tyres, with Aston Martin’s Alonso setting the early pace with a 1’35.048. That was beaten by the Red Bull of Perez, who posted a 1’34.343 on the mediums, seven tenths faster than the Aston Martin.

The two debutants both had two different moments of concern in the early running. Logan Sargeant reported the smell of something burning in his Williams’ cockpit during his first run out in the circuit, while McLaren’s Oscar Piastri caught a snap of oversteer through turn seven early on.

Lance Stroll finally got out onto the track for the first time in the Aston Martin after missing testing through injury. However he was frustrated by an ignition problem which kept him in the garage for over 20 minutes.

With more than half of the session complete, Red Bull took to the track on soft tyres for the first time. World champion Verstappen posted a 1’33.375 on the C3 rubber, but that was easily beaten by team mate Perez by six tenths of a second. Lando Norris ran off-track at the first corner under braking, before Carlos Sainz Jnr had a spin approaching the tricky downhill left hander of turn 10, damaging his tyres and consigning himself to a place at the bottom of the times.

Alonso’s first effort on the soft tyres was good enough to split the two Red Bulls at the top of the table, but still almost half a second off Perez’s overall best. Norris put his McLaren into fourth, while Stroll moved up to sixth with his first effort on the soft rubber.

There were no significant improvements in the final phase of the session, meaning Perez ended the session fastest of all with his 1’32.758 – the only driver to get within the 1’32s in the session. Alonso split the Red Bulls, almost half a second behind Perez and 0.17s quicker than Verstappen.

Norris was fourth for McLaren, ahead of Charles Leclerc on the medium tyres. Stroll was sixth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, the two Alfa Romeos of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top ten ahead of Mercedes team mate George Russell.

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix first practice result

Position Number Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull RB19 1’32.758 21
2 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’33.196 0.438 22
3 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull RB19 1’33.375 0.617 20
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’34.165 1.407 21
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’34.257 1.499 17
6 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’34.298 1.540 17
7 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’34.402 1.644 20
8 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’34.575 1.817 18
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’34.689 1.931 20
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1’34.917 2.159 13
11 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’34.966 2.208 20
12 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’34.997 2.239 24
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’35.015 2.257 20
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’35.043 2.285 22
15 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 1’35.105 2.347 20
16 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’35.402 2.644 25
17 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 1’35.455 2.697 22
18 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’35.749 2.991 24
19 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’36.018 3.260 15
20 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 1’36.072 3.314 21

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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15 comments on “Perez fastest as Alonso’s Aston Martin split the Red Bulls in practice”

  1. A typical Middle Eastern daytime practice session.
    Stroll unfortunately couldn’t recover lost track time as much as possible.

    1. Good that Stroll recovered from the injuries. But the unfortunate fact is that he’s is in the car and not Drugovich.

  2. Alpine looks to be in real problems.

    1. Well we’ll have to wait and see. But they were slow in testing and for some reason the media were buying their “extreme setup” excuse. Would be bold to still be running “extreme setups” in FP1.

    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alpine are a lot closer to the front than they’re letting on. Notice they didn’t opt to do a soft tyre run yet again. They will have to start doing some level of performance runs from FP2 though, the drivers can’t go into Quali blind. So we are going to find out if there is any pace in that car or if they’re just messing around with extreme setups for no reason.

  3. Lewis Hamilton only did 13 laps, the fewest of any driver, and according to the radio, he was the only driver to go straight back into the pits when everyone else was taking the opportunity to do a practice start. I wonder if either he isn’t feeling well, or there is a car issue?

  4. If an injured Stroll can be 6th quickest then I am starting to believe in Aston Martin.

    1. Aston Martin is quick this year, no doubt about it. I’d love to see Alonso up there again, it’s been too long.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      3rd March 2023, 13:38

      I think they’ve definitely moved up the grid in terms of pace but until we see how they get on in quali and the race, I’m still not convinced they’re going to trouble the top 3 teams. Ferrari seemed to be messing about with different wings and setups and Mercedes set their fastest laps on the mediums… I think Aston will end up where McLaren were a couple of seasons ago – just behind the top teams with the occasional podium when things play into their hands.

      The big issue for them will be keeping up with the development pace of Mercedes and Red Bull.

    3. The Dolphins
      3rd March 2023, 14:37

      1’34 still, a ways off the pole in ’22 — I will give them credit for looking to at least have secured that 4th place, a shame for Alpine.

  5. Is Perez’s superior performance real ? Am I missing something ?

    1. It’s FP1, wouldn’t read too much into it at this point

      1. In addition, FP1 is during the afternoon when the sun is out, while qualy and race are both at night in cooler temps. You’ll notice Merc barely did any running, it’s just a pointless session for the most part and likely nobody was going for fastest times. Likely just testing setups and making sure the cars are reliable.

  6. Times are 4s slower than last week. Probably the most pointless FP1 of all season

  7. Oh well.
    Season’s over.
    Hand the crown to RB already.

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