Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test

Leclerc puts Ferrari on top as Bahrain test ends

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc put Ferrari quickest on the third and final day of pre-season Formula 1 testing in Bahrain ahead of George Russell.

The Ferrari driver set the fastest time on the final day, less than half a second quicker than Mercedes driver Russell.

However, Leclerc’s best time was not fast enough to beat the best time of the three-day test, set on Thursday by his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Following a lengthy red flag early in the day for another loose drain cover, the session resumed with over seven hours remaining with no lunch break at the mid point of the day. At the end of the opening four hours, Sainz was quickest for Ferrari with a 1’31.247, though that was well over a second slower than his overall best time of the test of 1’29.921 from Thursday.

Although the session ran continuously, there was a lull in the track action around the time of the original scheduled lunch break as most teams switched between drivers. Sainz briefly broke the silence, before Alexander Albon – the only driver running a full day programme – returned to the circuit.

McLaren were the first of the nine teams to change drivers, with Oscar Piastri taking over the MCL38. He was soon joined by world champion Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, while Leclerc, Russell, Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg all stepped into their respective cars for the last time.

For much of the day teams focussed more on long fuel runs than outright lap times, with no significant changes to the leaderboard in the middle hours.

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Just before 4pm, Verstappen headed out on track on a fresh set of C3 compound tyres. After setting a purple first and second sector, the world champion replaced Sainz at the top of the times with a new fastest lap of the day with a 1’31.058 – still more than a second slower than Sainz’s best time of the test set on Thursday.

Soon after, Leclerc headed out on track with a set of C4 tyres on his Ferrari and posted the fastest lap of the day with a 1’30.409. Not long after, he improved slightly to a 1’30.322.

As the sun began to set, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda and Zhou spent a handful of laps running in close proximity, appearing to gather some data on how their cars ran while in traffic. But there was little else in the way of excitement as teams continued to rack up the mileage on track, aside from the right-front wheel shroud breaking off Gasly’s Alpine on the way into turn one, forcing him to return to the garage for repairs.

In the final hour of running, some teams began to dial up the speed. Mercedes sent Russell out on C3 tyres for multiple push-lap runs which culminated in a lap of 1’30.960. In the final 20 minutes, Russell was fitted with a set of softer C4 tyres, which he used to improve to a 1’30.368, less than half a second slower than Leclerc’s best of the day, to move into second in the times.

Zhou also improved to third place on the C4 compound seconds before the scheduled Safety Car procedure test was initiated with 15 minutes remaining. As on Thursday, a full test of the Virtual Safety Car, Safety Car, red flag and start procedures were carried out, with Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Zhou, Alonso, Piastri, Leclerc and Russell all participating. Once all drivers had been given the opportunity to run a practice start from the grid, the final day of testing officially came to an end.

Leclerc finished quickest of all drivers on the day but with a time slower than team mate’s Sainz’s best time from Thursday. Russell was second ahead of Zhou, with Verstappen’s best effort of 1’30.755 the fourth-fastest on the day, but ahead of RB’s Tsunoda. Albon was sixth for Williams, with Piastri seventh, Alonso eighth, Sainz ninth and Perez completing the top ten.

As to be expected, Albon completed the most laps of any driver with 121, but Haas drivers Magnussen and Hulkenberg combined for a total of 169 laps – the most of any team on the day. Alpine covered the fewest laps on the final day, with Gasly and Esteban Ocon running 102 laps between them.

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2024 Formula 1 pre-season Bahrain testing, day three complete times:

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-241’30.32274
263George RussellMercedesW151’30.3680.04667
324Guanyu ZhouSauberC441’30.6470.32585
41Max VerstappenRed BullRB201’30.7550.43366
522Yuki TsunodaRBRB011’30.7750.45353
623Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW461’30.9840.662121
781Oscar PiastriMcLarenMCL381’31.0300.70891
814Fernando AlonsoAston MartinAMR241’31.1590.83775
955Carlos SainzFerrariSF-241’31.2470.92571
1011Sergio PerezRed BullRB201’31.4831.16153
1127Nico HulkenbergHaasVF-241’31.6861.36489
1244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW151’31.9991.67749
1318Lance StrollAston MartinAMR241’32.0381.71646
144Lando NorrisMcLarenMCL381’32.1081.78620
1510Pierre GaslyAlpineA5241’32.1491.82747
1620Kevin MagnussenHaasVF-241’33.0532.73180
1731Esteban OconAlpineA5241’33.0792.75755
1877Valtteri BottasSauberC441’33.5283.20628
193Daniel RicciardoRBRB011’37.0156.69370

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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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5 comments on “Leclerc puts Ferrari on top as Bahrain test ends”

  1. 2023 Bahrain GP was a cracking race. Hoping for a repeat this year. If Ferrari has fixed the deg issues from last year, then it would be close in the first couple of races.

  2. The future favors the bold.

  3. Wow, Max’s chances of another WDC are suddenly bleaker than Zhou Guanyu’s!

    1. Actually more impressive than anything, I posted a message after 3 months of errors – I guess IE Chromium is incompatible with the site.

  4. RedBull didnt use C4 for the whole test?
    All C3 were used right?
    Who set the fastest time on C3 tyre between RedBull, Ferarri and Mercedes?

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