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

Verstappen quickest, Albon stops as Bahrain test begins

Formula 1

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World champion Max Verstappen set the early pace ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc as pre-season testing for the 2024 F1 season began in Bahrain.

While rain affecting the Formula 2 test at the same track earlier in the month, conditions were much drier and warmer for the start of the three day Formula 1 pre-season test. So eager were Mercedes to take to the track, George Russell rolled out of the garage three minutes before the green light to wait at the end of the pit lane.

As the began nine of the 10 teams – all bar McLaren – immediately sent their cars out. Many carried aero rakes of carious configurations and sizes. Russell was the first driver to run over the line and begin a flying lap in the test, posting a 1’39.956 for the first time of the 2024 season.

After avoiding the initial rush out onto the track, McLaren eventually joined the circuit for the first time in the MCL38 with Oscar Piastri. Naturally, teams were not pushing at the very start of the early session, with Fernando Alonso’s 1’33.822 the quickest time over the opening half an hour.

The only minor problem of note for the first hour was Kevin Magnussen experiencing a slightly loose aero rake on the right hand side of the VF-24. However, after a quick trip into the pit lane, Magnussen was sent back out with the appendage properly affixed to the car.

Esteban Ocon went off the track at the exit of turn four on a push lap, running into the shallow gravel trap. However there was seemingly no harm to the Alpine, who was able to continue on uninterrupted. Williams were also delayed temporarily by a reported DRS problem.

Two hours into the session, Verstappen was the quickest of all with a 1’33.065, just under two tenths faster than Leclerc’s best in the Ferrari. Although outright speed was not the focus for any of the ten teams, Verstappen shaved half a second off his overall best in the final two hours to post the best time of the earlier session with a 1’32.548, almost seven tenths quicker than Leclerc.

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There were relatively few problems for the teams through the session, with Haas spending some extended time in the garage working on the fuel system on their car. With less than half an hour remaining, Alexander Albon ground to a halt at the exit of turn two in his Williams. He could not get his car moving again and his car was pushed behind the barrier, but the session continued without the need for a red flag intervention.

When the chequered flag signalled the start of the lunch break, Verstappen was on top of the times ahead of Leclerc, Alonso, Piastri and Yuki Tsunoda fifth for RB. Aston Martin covered the most laps with 77 for Alonso, with Sauber second with 68 laps and Red Bull and Haas equal with 66. Most teams covered more than a 57-lap race distance on the first morning of the season.

Leclerc, Alonso, Piastri, Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Albon, Ocon and Magnussen will all hand their cars over to their respective team mates for the evening session. Only Verstappen and Russell will remain in their cars.

2024 Formula 1 pre-season testing Bahrain, Day One Session One times:

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed BullRB201’32.54866
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-241’33.2470.69964
314Fernando AlonsoAston MartinAMR241’33.3850.83777
481Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL381’33.6581.11057
522Yuki TsunodaRBRB011’34.1361.58864
663George RussellMercedesW151’34.2301.68248
777Valtteri BottasSauberC441’34.4311.88368
823Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW461’34.5872.03940
931Esteban OconAlpineA5241’34.6772.12960
1020Kevin MagnussenHaasVF-241’35.6923.14466

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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 “Verstappen quickest, Albon stops as Bahrain test begins”

  1. “Williams were the only team to fail to cover a race distance of 57 laps in the session.”

    What happened to Russell then.

  2. Those big shoulders on the Red Bull look so weird.

  3. This is basically how 2024 is going to look and it’s hard to hope it won’t:
    1. Red Bull
    2. Ferrari
    3. Aston Martin
    4. McLaren
    5. RB
    6. Mercedes
    7. Sauber
    8. Williams
    9. Alpine
    10. Haas

    The most likely difference would be Mercedes being much stronger.

    1. Way too early for conclusions based on the first four hours.

      1. It isn’t a conclusion, but a prediction. And a very strong prediction.

        1. Max had to run completely off the track for his fastest time. this session not speaking too much.

    2. Indeed. You do wonder and I think Merc will be in the mix for 3rd/4th/5th. One suspects they would be disappointed though with only that. I cannot see Sauber being 7th best either really.

    3. Possibly the most ridiculous pre-season post I have ever seen. Copy/paste the order of the first session and moan that this will be the order for the rest of the season.

      1. +1 I’ve seen absolutely nothing to suggest Mercedes will be 6th at best. I’m not sure why they think McLaren,Ferrari and Aston will retain a similar position to last year but Mercedes have dropped from 2nd/3rd to 6th.

        For most of the session Mercedes had the massive aero sensors on the car. No one is pushing for all out lap time yet and while RedBull look quick, pole was in the 29’s last year, so there’s still lots more time to be found by everyone.

      2. I don’t think the person making the prediction was 100% serious. I took it as a bit of fun. Along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be odd if things worked out like this’.

        1. Knowing most posters on this site, that particular person meant it seriously, which is why some of us jumped here to correct stuff.

      3. So?? How far off was I, David?? Oh, kids, kids….

    4. Bwoah, if you’re that certain after the first 1/6th of testing, best get down to the bookies and get in those good rates whilst you can!

    5. It’s way too early, I agree with the others, especially mercedes in 6th is a pretty negative prediction, imo test times are meaningless (how we see them at least, not meaningless for teams), practice times are meaningless, quali times before q3 are meaningless, q3 ones are meaningful but there’s sometimes a massive difference in performance for a team in quali and race, check the first quali of 2018: ferrari was very competitive in the race, if you only looked at q3 you’d think it’d be a mercedes whitewash.

      And then we have the “different performance on different tracks” factor, so if a team is up to half a sec behind in the first race, there’s no saying they won’t be the best in the 2nd race.

  4. Feeling a little concerned about Williams. Excuses from Vowles about not using a shakedown day, and struggling to get laps under their belt on day 1.

    Hopefully they will prove me wrong but it looks like they haven’t solved their budget and organisational woes.

    Haas might be struggling too but I don’t have much sympathy for them because they have never tried to run a decent F1 operation. Ayao Komatsu will have his work cut out just keeping them going, let alone moving them up the grid.

  5. I think we don’t have to wait for the first Q3 session to unleash the usual “The championship is over” cliché.

    1. Careful. People will criticise you for writing off the season already ;-)

  6. I know its testing, but the red bull looked on rails, which is an ominous sign for everyone else. Regardless of fuel loads, power modes, etc, it seemed to do whatever Max wanted. If it looks the same towards the end of the test, it might be game over for the rest. The Ferrari looked decent too, as did the Aston.

    1. Yes, unless red bull really got it wrong, which can happen (but like you said not likely with this car behaviour), it’s not surprising if they have the clear best car again, since the others were copying red bull’s concect, which should make them a contender for last year’s red bull, meanwhile they changed it, so if they made a significant improvement it’s hard to beat them.

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