Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test

Verstappen puts Red Bull over a second ahead of rivals on first day of testing

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Max Verstappen picked up where he left off last year by putting his Red Bull on top of the times by over a second on the first day of testing.

The world champion was one of few drivers who participated in both of the day’s sessions. After the break he improved on his original best time to go comfortably fastest as the sim set at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Lando Norris was second-fastest for McLaren, with Carlos Sainz Jnr third-fastest in his new Ferrari. Both took over from their respective team mates after the first four hours of running.

Following the hour long lunch break, the second session of the day began at 3pm local time. While Verstappen and George Russell both remained in their cars, eight others joined in the action: Sainz, Norris, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Logan Sargeant, Daniel Ricciardo, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg.

The wind speed picked up significantly over the break and none of the ten teams hurried to join the track. Eventually, after almost ten minutes had elapsed, Sainz was the first driver on track for Ferrari.

It took until almost half-an-hour had elapsed for the next car to take to the track, that of Russell’s Mercedes, before Gasly drove out of garage for the first time soon after. There was little movement in the McLaren garage, however, as Norris was shown sat next to his stricken MCL38 while a flurry of mechanics worked over his car.

Eventually, Norris headed out for the first time with almost an hour of the four completed. Following a stoppage on track in the final 30 minutes of the earlier session for team mate Alexander Albon because of a fuel pump problem, Logan Sargeant eventually got out onto the track for two installation laps before returning to the pits.

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Around 90 minutes into the running, Sainz posted a 1’32.584 – the quickest time of the second session and within half a second of Verstappen’s best time of the day up to that point. Norris also moved to just over half a second off Verstappen’s benchmark, comfortably beating team mate Piastri’s personal best from the earlier session.

Just before the mid-point of the session, Norris improved to a 1’32.484 to become the fastest driver of the day up to that point, on the C3 compound tyre. Almost as if in response, Verstappen rejoined the track on C3 tyres of his own and reclaimed the top spot with a 1’31.662 – eight tenths faster than Norris and well over a second quicker than he posted over the first day of last year’s pre-season test.

Williams’ troubles from the afternoon session continued into the evening. First Sargeant suffered a high speed spin under braking for the tight, downhill left-hander turn 10 before returning to the pits. Later on, however, he suffered an apparent driveshaft problem which confined him to the garage after only 21 laps.

A minor incident occurred late in the session after the sun had set. Stroll’s left-hand wing mirror fell off his Aston Martin at the end of the pit straight. After Ricciardo narrowly avoided the debris, Hulkenberg struck the mirror with his left wheel. However, the Haas appeared to not suffer much damage from the impact and the session continued without intervention.

In the final hour, Verstappen used another fresh set of C3 compound tyres to post a 1’31.344 – which would ultimately be the best time of the opening day and almost one-and-a-half seconds faster than his own best time from the first day of 2023’s pre-season test. Norris did not improve his personal best time in the final part of the session and as the chequered flag flew, he was over a second slower than the world champion.

Sainz was third-fastest for Ferrari, with Ricciardo fourth for RB and Gasly fifth. Stroll was sixth-quickest for Aston Martin with Charles Leclerc’s best time from the earlier session putting him seventh on the day ahead of Fernando Alonso eighth, Oscar Piastri in ninth and Zhou Guanyu tenth for Sauber.

Haas covered the most distance on the opening day with just over 800km between Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. Verstappen’s 143 laps meant Red Bull had the second-highest mileage of day one ahead of Ferrari in third, as Williams had by far the fewest distance of any team with 330km.

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2024 Formula 1 Bahrain testing – Day One complete times:

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed BullRB201’31.344143
24Lando NorrisMcLarenMCL381’32.4841.14072
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-241’32.5841.24069
43Daniel RicciardoRBRB011’32.5991.25552
510Pierre GaslyAlpineA5241’32.8051.46160
618Lance StrollAston MartinAMR241’33.0071.66354
716Charles LeclercFerrariSF-241’33.2471.90364
814Fernando AlonsoAston MartinAMR241’33.3852.04177
981Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL381’33.6582.31457
1024Zhou GuanyuSauberC441’33.8712.52762
112Logan SargeantWilliamsFW461’33.8822.53821
1263George RussellMercedesW151’34.1092.765121
1322Yuki TsunodaRBRB011’34.1362.79264
1477Valtteri BottasSauberC441’34.4313.08768
1523Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW461’34.5873.24340
1631Esteban OconAlpineA5241’34.6773.33360
1720Kevin MagnussenHaasVF-241’35.6924.34866
1827Nico HulkenbergHaasVF-241’35.9064.56282

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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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62 comments on “Verstappen puts Red Bull over a second ahead of rivals on first day of testing”

  1. Game over.

    Any glimmer of excitement for a close 2024 has been absolutely smashed to pieces.

    Hats off to RedBull but we’re in for a duller season than last year.

    1. Rumor has it, that most teams immediately dropped the development of their current car designs and will start on their 2025 designs starting tomorrow morning.

    2. and Alonso is finished – Stroll is just quicker. Should’ve stuck to El Plan, he’d be in an Alpine sportscar by now…

      1. All morning runners were significantly slower than their afternoon counterparts @bullfrog

        1. That was a sarcastic post btw.

    3. Do not worry.
      Merc are sandbagging.

      1. They’re all ultimately sand bagging at the moment, we won’t see what these cars can really do until qualifying for the first race.

      2. So are Red Bull

    4. I think the FIA should just hand Red Bull the constructor’s trophy, Max his 4th WDC and Sergio the runner up trophy at the end of the pre season test…. and then ask them to sit out the 2024 season.

      Let the rest of the grid fight it out for 2nd in the WCC and 2nd runner up in the WDC. We’ll pretend they’re actually fighting for the championship. It should make for an interesting season .

      1. If they had done that last year it’d have been indeed an interesting season.

  2. Red Bull is looking extremely strong. The 1 second gap will be flattered, but the fact that they can put 3 fast (2023 Q1 fast) performance laps on day one (with likely different basic setups) and all relative fast, makes it seem like the car has a big setup platform, allowing them to turn over their setup during a weekend and still be the fastest.

    The smiles said it all after that first lap. This thing might be further ahead than the RB19.

  3. The RB20 looked totally on rails with Max at the wheel today. Not the result most fans will have been hoping for. I know one day of testing a season does not make, but blimey, hoping that this year is not going to be a 24 race victory lap.

    13 drivers are out of contract at the end of the 2024 season, let’s hope that offers something to look forward to.

    1. You didn’t see the first hour of testing, did you? On the hard tires, the RB20 might as well have been on roller skates.

      Don’t get me wrong– the car is blinkin’ heck levels of quick– but it’s not perfect.


      1. I saw some videos of the RB looking a bit leery at times but seeing as this is testing in different conditions to what they’ll be racing in in Bahrain I wouldn’t assume it’s how it’ll perform.

      2. Hard tires would not have been the only variable between the first hour and subsequent hours. They would’ve been trying suspension changes, rie height changes, swapping out other components, etc. Any of those could’ve caused the car to be more difficult to drive, and making changes after that first hour to correct it would explain why the times improved.

      3. Hard tyres on a sandy circuit but things went beter as the circuit progressed with more rubber and adjustment of the setup they did everytime Max pitted.

  4. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    21st February 2024, 16:53

    Really good season that, I enjoyed it.

  5. There shouldn’t be any surprise. The rest of the teams are desperately trying to create their own version of an RB19 whilst Red Bull have launched the RB20… The question isn’t (and has never been) whether Red Bull will have the fastest car this year or not, it’s how close the others can get to them. We won’t know until next week whether others have cut the gap or not.

    1. There isn’t any surprise. What is is disappointment.

  6. No Hamilton or Perez. Their teammates did all the driving.

  7. I really don’t mind, even if Max does walk away with the championship and sets new records. Last year was still entertaining enough to follow behind that and there’s even more promise with RB looking decent.

    I think F1 is in a really exciting place with the current setup and the future to come. If they just fix all the rubbish like blanket 5 second rules regardless of infraction, track limit inconsistencies and questions over what exactly alongside at the apex means and where the apex is define at some of the questionable corners… Stuff like that is more bothersome than Max winning. He’s showed enough skill for me to absolutely know he’s entirely 100% earnt it, and that it’s not just the car.

    1. Exactly, Max is a combination of talent and hard work. Today also he practiced most among all others.

      1. @Anuj

        Yeah, a lot of supremely talented people get a bit lazy since they can coast on their skills, but Max has the drive and determination more typical of people with far less talent.

    2. Humans just never cease to amaze me, do you really believe that? A racing series with no racing. You must have an abnormally high boredom threshold

    3. If only he had teamates that would challenge him. I don’t blame RB for having a great car and Max being a great driver but it’s been a bit of an * for me ever since 2022.

    4. I think F1 is in a really exciting place with the current setup

      How? Seasons like 2022 and 2023 are anything but exciting.

      After 2009, and 2014 in particular, there’s been this narrative that even prolonged periods of domination are normal and that fans should somehow content themselves with setting who can finish in 8th place. No thanks!

      If 2024 is another snoozer there should be drastic changes, like there were before 2009 whenever F1 regulated itself into a bad spot.

      1. Except 2007 and 2008 were great seasons.

        1. So were 2005 and 2006.

        2. Not sure why that’d be an “except”. F1 took some huge steps in the 2000s to keep the sport interesting, which can be frustrating for fans of a particular winning team, but are on the whole positive. While one may gripe about how did seasons came to be, they were much more compelling than this post-2009 mantra of “what can we do” while at the same time closing off more and more avenues for development and thus competition.

          Drop the engine freeze. Drop the spec tyres. Create room for competitive innovation with the cost cap ensuring teams can’t maximise performance in all areas.

      2. The ‘new normal’ ?

  8. did Max do more of a performance run than the others? is this a straw we can cling desperately to?

    1. You can try to cling to that straw, but most top runners were definitely pushing, you could see it on the broadcast… Mercedes is the big one that didn’t really seem to, and Ferrari didn’t seem to push hard. I think the rest is representative, driver dependent of course, Alonso didn’t get to run the good conditions.

      Still 2 more days so let’s see! It was good to see teams treating it more like Free Practice on day 1 alone. Says good things about how all their simulators and off-track testing has evolved to allow that.

      1. there were quite a lot of lockups weren’t there. Still, the McLaren was bottoming out all over the place which could mean a lot of fuel, and half a tank is a good second easily

  9. Let’s wait and see how the rest of the test plays out.

    Hopefully it paints a more competitive picture.

    If F1TV starts giving out 90% discounts we’ll know for sure.

  10. A déjà vu. It seems like we’re back to the V8 era when Red Bull used to have a superior gear to the rest of the field. It’s time to scrap the stupid PU freeze regime ! #TheChampionshipIsOver

    On another serious note, there’s a strong speculation in the paddock about Christian Horner’s potential departure by month’s end. If confirmed Toto will become the only non technical team principal in the paddock.

    1. Toto’s press comments were damning, he seemed to say a lot without actually saying it.

    2. The engine freeze, and equalising scheme, indeed has no place in F1.

      Whatever the merits of Red Bull’s titles, they’re never going to be as impressive as titles won in more open competitions.

  11. Would it be possible for Mercedes to re-hire Mike Elliot again?

    Once Allison has figured out the chassis and suspension in 2024, the argument could be made to re-introduce the zero pod concept in 2025?

    Kudos to Red Bull to boldly keep innovating.

    1. That would be a smart idea as Red Bull is going to a zeropod itself if we may trust the rumours in Japan.

  12. Lets see what future testing brings but the key problem for me is not simply uncompetitiveness, since I have willingly watched multiple uncompetitive seasons previously, it is an uncompetitive season with this many races and on this level of substandard tracks.

  13. Are we writing the season off? Some fans have peculiar ability to jump to conclusions at first possible instance. This was just the first daybof pre-season, let’s wait for the actual racing.

    1. It’s a bit of a joke among fans to declare the season over, it’s not necessarily all that serious.

      Still, it’s on the other teams to prove that they’ve caught up. Just because it’s a new season doesn’t mean they all start from square one. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume Red Bull is still the bar by which others are judged. So in that sense it’s fair enough to assume another boring season until proven otherwise.

    2. Yes, because we’ve used our eyes to see just how well that RedBull looks on track. We also used our brains to cover the data and even if you ignore the outright lap times you’ll see just how much faster the RedBull is. The worry is that they aren’t even trying to show it yet. Quote me on this next when Max is on pole in the 27’s while everyone else is struggling to get into the 28’s

    3. To be fair… at the end of day two of the pre season tests in 2023, it was painfully obvious that Red Bull were going to dominate that season.. but even then, no one expected them to win all the races bar Singapore.

      I think Red Bull look even more dominant on the first day of the pre season test in 2024 than they did in 2023. I think this season Perez will take 2nd in the WDC without a battle.

  14. A collective sigh of disappointment could be heard from fans.

  15. RBR borefest continues…

    1. Given that being competitive for race wins has now been stated to be an official prerequisite to being an F1 team that gets invited into the not-a-cartel FOM scheme, one wonders how many teams are going to get kicked out this year. Has, Sauber and Williams for sure. Maybe a few more as well. Exciting times for F1!

      1. MichaelN,
        Ferrari and probably Mercedes will be fine. The rest are probably doomed.

        1. Yeah, a lot of teams are probably going to get removed.

          It’s a bit unfortunate, but FOM was very clear: be competitive or stay home.

          It will be interesting to see who gets the last of the six available seats in 2025.

          1. Indeed, absolutely ridiculous that andretti can’t get in with that excuse and we hardly have anyone that can compete with the strongest team, it’s now been 11 years with a clear favourite (2014-2024 is a difference of 10 but they’re 11 years and merc and red bull are the clear favourites every single year).

          2. Damn, we also have to add the 2010-2013 red bull period, so 15 years!

  16. Coventry Climax
    21st February 2024, 18:38

    The world champion was one of few drivers who participated in both of the day’s sessions. After the break he improved on his original best time to go comfortably fastest as the sim set at the Bahrain International Circuit

    That’s funny. I had no idea what a sim could possibly have to do in this sentence.
    And then we witnessed an absolutely beautiful sunset from where we live, and that’s when the bulb came on; ‘as the sun set’. Brilliant.

  17. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the picture. Gasly’s 1:32.181 was the slowest qualifying time in 2023, so they should be able to do better than that. Given how many races Max won last year with a few tenths of an advantage, it would be scary if he had a 1988 McLaren level of advantage. Mad that that 1988 car still isn’t the most dominant when it had a larger advantage and two of the greatest drivers driving it…

    1. If all teams chip in, they can pay Ferrari to hire Max. Pay him 500 million per year. Whatever it takes.

  18. I don’t get it. The people in F1 have gotten so soft over the years, moaning on about the season being too long and taking too much of a toll on people and their families. When I started watching they had to go through 18 Grands Prix. Now that took a toll on you. This year the season was done in a single day. What’s so hard about that?

    1. They’re just honest about reality. I’m sure you’d say the same things if you were in their position.

      1. I think you’re missing the joke

  19. I noticed Williams has finally joined all other teams in having a steering wheel design with built-in display, which they should’ve gone for back in 2015 already, like the other teams that didn’t have an LCD display in 2014, but better later than never.

    1. Oh no, I HATE steering wheels with built-in displays!!! I loved the Williams kept it the right way! It looked so much better and more practical. Damn! :(

  20. i’m under the impression that the least interesting thing regarding F1 these days is what happens on the track.

    Max is the 2024 WDC.

    But then there’s the Christian Horny investigation, Sainz’s new ride, how Hamilton and Mercedes will deal with this season, Hamilton’s replacement, etc. These are more unpredictable then the outcoming of this season.

  21. Rumour has it, Red Bull dispatched a mechanic into the sand dunes with a shovel and some bags, and told him to come back when they are all full.

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