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

The key data from F1’s only pre-season test of 2024

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After three days, 3,695 laps and almost 20,000 kilometres, the sole pre-season test ahead of Formula 1’s longest ever season has come to a close in Bahrain.

Once again, teams’ final opportunity to prepare their new cars ahead of the upcoming season came at the same venue as the opening round of the championship. That also means it provides a chance to compare each teams’ times and mileage to their pre-season performance from last year.

Naturally, none of the 10 teams were pushing their cars to their absolute limits over the course of the three days. There will be plenty of performance left in the tank ready to be unleashed next week, when it actually matters. But that is not to say there are not some observations to make now that the pre-season is officially over and a 24-round championship finally gets underway.

Lap times: Driver

Carlos Sainz Jnr has participated in five pre-season tests over his four years as a Ferrari driver, but he has never been the fastest overall until his final one. The man who will leave the Scuderia at the conclusion of the 2024 season set the quickest time of all over the three days; a 1’29.921, making him the only driver to break under the 90-second mark.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test
Sainz’s Thursday time was the best of the test
Last year, Sainz’s time would have been good enough to earn third position on the Bahrain Grand Prix grid. However, he set this fastest lap on the C4 compound tyres – a step softer than he will have available to him during next weekend’s event.

Sainz’s best lap of testing came in the second day, not the final one when most teams set their best times. But his Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc was the fastest on Friday with a 1’30.322 – also set on a compound he will not be running next weekend. The closest to the Ferrari duo was Mercedes, with George Russell posting a 1’30.368 in the final hour of testing, also on the C4s, while Sauber ended testing in the top four on the time sheets for the second straight year as Zhou Guanyu’s final lap of the test saw him go just slightly quicker than the two Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

At the other end of the time sheet, Kevin Magnussen had the slowest best time of any driver for Haas. However, given that his best time of a 1’33.053 was slower than his quickest time of last year’s pre-season test, it’s fair to say it’s probably not worth reading too much into single-lap performance.

P.DriverTeamDay 1Day 2Day 3BestGap
1Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.5841’29.9211’31.2471’29.921
2Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.2471’31.7501’30.3221’30.322+0.401s
3George RussellMercedes1’34.1091’30.3681’30.368+0.447s
4Zhou GuanyuSauber1’33.8711’33.7151’30.6471’30.647+0.726s
5Sergio PerezRed Bull1’30.6791’31.4831’30.679+0.758s
6Max VerstappenRed Bull1’31.3441’30.7551’30.755+0.834s
7Yuki TsunodaRB1’34.1361’38.0741’30.7751’30.775+0.854s
8Alexander AlbonWilliams1’34.5871’30.9841’30.984+1.063s
9Oscar PiastriMcLaren1’33.6581’32.3281’31.0301’31.03+1.109s
10Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.0661’31.9991’31.066+1.145s
11Fernando AlonsoAston Martin1’33.3851’33.0531’31.1591’31.159+1.238s
12Lando NorrisMcLaren1’32.4841’31.2561’32.1081’31.256+1.335s
13Daniel RicciardoRB1’32.5991’31.3611’37.0151’31.361+1.440s
14Nico HulkenbergHaas1’35.9061’37.5091’31.6861’31.686+1.765s
15Lance StrollAston Martin1’33.0071’32.0291’32.0381’32.029+2.108s
16Esteban OconAlpine1’34.6771’32.0611’33.0791’32.061+2.140s
17Pierre GaslyAlpine1’32.8051’33.8041’32.1491’32.149+2.228s
18Valtteri BottasSauber1’34.4311’32.2271’33.5281’32.227+2.306s
19Logan SargeantWilliams1’33.8821’32.5781’32.578+2.657s
20Kevin MagnussenHaas1’35.6921’36.6111’33.0531’33.053+3.132s

Lap times: Team

With Sainz quickest and his Ferrari team mate Leclerc both sat at the top of the times at the end of the test, it would be easy to think Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur would be buoyed by his team’s showing. However, Vasseur was more concerned by Ferrari’s long-run performance, which was their main weakness last year.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test
Red Bull were not quickest, but made a strong impression
“Our first goal was to see if the SF-24 performed predictably, not being overly sensitive to variations in the external conditions and that it was easy to drive,” he explained. “From what Charles and Carlos have said and looking at the consistency of their performance over a long run, it seems we were successful on this front.”

While Red Bull set the pace in last year’s test heading into the new season, the world champions were only fourth-fastest over the three days. But the rumblings from all their rivals strongly suggests that everyone expects them to be the team to beat next week.

Three teams who would expect to be fighting for regular points every race weekend – McLaren, Aston Martin and Alpine – were all to be found among the bottom four teams. Although Alpine were the team with the slowest best time of the ten, both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were very satisfied with their three days’ work.

But while Aston Martin made a strong impression in the pre-season test last year before backing their up fully in the first grand prix, the Silverstone-based team were less conspicuous this year.

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2024 pre-season lap times compared to last year’s grand prix

With Bahrain hosting pre-season tests before the start of the all three championships in the ground effect era, it’s striking how far lap times have dropped in just two years’ time. Back in 2022, the best time of the test was Verstappen’s 1’31.720. That was beaten by the world champion on the first day in 2024.

Valtteri Bottas, Sauber, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test
New-look Sauber have gained more time than anyone
But Red Bull seemed content not to push their new RB20 too much before the start of the season, as neither Verstappen nor Perez matched the team’s best time from 2023 – only demonstrating how confident the champions appear to be feeling.

Williams team principal James Vowles has been openly bullish about how aggressive the new FW46 is in its design. Although they were the only team to suffer a stoppage on track over the three days, they did make the biggest improvement over last year. Not just by finding over a second-and-a-half over their best test time from last year, but almost half a second over their best lap throughout the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

But Williams were not the biggest gainers. Red Bull’s second team, RB, have found at least six tenths from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix on the track, while Sauber have gained more than anyone, finding almost eight tenths of lap time in the space of 12 months.

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2024 pre-season mileages compared to last year

So often over pre-season testing, teams are at pains to point out that while lap times matter little in testing, lap counts are so much more important. But three years into the current generation of technical regulations, its fair to say that the new cars proved incredibly reliable – even if the same could not be said for the circuit itself.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test
Haas covered more laps than any of their rivals
Over three days, there was not a single red flag stoppage due to a car getting into trouble out on track. When the session was stopped, it wasn’t the cars that had failed but the track, drain covers twice coming loose on the approach to turn 11.

While many teams had to spend extended periods of time in the garage running repairs and services on their cars, only one team – Williams – had a car stop on track when Alexander Albon pulled off near the end of the first session on the first day. Unsurprisingly, they notched up the fewest laps of any team – one shy of 300 – with second-year driver Logan Sargeant covering 746km over his two days in the car, fewest of anyone.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, Haas may have been one of the slower teams but they easily topped the mileage rankings with 441 laps and 2,386km between Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg – an encouraging start to the Ayao Komatsu era. Ferrari were the only other team to get more than 400 laps in over the three days, with Red Bull third with 391.

After back-to-back poor pre-seasons over the last two years, McLaren will likely be happy with their 1,769km of track time. While it was the second-lowest total of the ten teams, they were one of only two teams – with Haas – to log more laps over the last three days than they did in 2023.

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Author information

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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18 comments on “The key data from F1’s only pre-season test of 2024”

  1. Key data from the test is F1 still haven’t learnt their lesson about drains

  2. This is a common occurrence in pre-season testing, Ferrari does not sandbag in their testing programme. I believe Red Bull to have quite a bit more pace in hand and as past seasons have indicated the team dials in the setup throughout the season so the gap will keep growing. It will be interesting to see if Max can beat his own race win record.

    1. “It will be interesting to see if Max can beat his own race win record.”

      He may beat his own race record, but I doubt it will be interesting.

  3. Really need to label the teams lap time graph. Four blues cmon

    1. They’re labelled for me lmao

    2. But doesn’t the Sauber green stand out!

      It’s like an Xbox on wheels :)

      1. Looks awful. Just like a casino floor. I really hope Aston’s time wasn’t representative of its place in the field.

    3. Not a single black one. Haas is kind of light black.

  4. McLaren were the most underwhelming team for me :/

  5. Comparing to last year lap times it is interesting to see the gains by Williams. I think Merc & Red Bull (I hate how we can’t use RB anymore unless we mean a different team) are both sand bagging and frankly we won’t know until Q1 where they generally stand.

    1. (I hate how we can’t use RB anymore unless we mean a different team)

      Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but can we call them VCARB?

      1. Coventry Climax
        24th February 2024, 1:00

        Most concise in my opinion: RB1 and RB2

    2. Charlie Racing
      24th February 2024, 6:19

      RBR and RB

  6. Coventry Climax
    24th February 2024, 1:03

    Didn’t Williams make a big step last season also?
    Would be second year in a row then, with a substantial gain. But then, they had to come from far.

  7. I’ve seen some graphs pointing to Ferrari’s long run pace being great, not dropping off, leading to some hope that we’ll get some better races without Ferrari eventually always falling back to Red Bull.

    I really can’t wait to see this Ferrari and Red Bull in qually, watching from onboard they looked so easy to drive, I can not wait to see them driven in anger and how fast they can go pushed to their limit. And only one week to go!

    1. @Will Wood – What about analyzing long runs, comparing best times on each compound v length of run, etc. I.e. analyze the data abit to reach so.e conclusions….

      1. Charlie Racing
        24th February 2024, 6:22

        I was expecting long runs too. L
        Single laps don’t mean anything, especially in testing

        1. Single laps don’t mean anything, especially in testing

          Yeah, and we don’t know what they were even doing. It’s not like all their best times were set in something like a quali-sim like you get in the FPs during race weekends.

          The laptime comparison, while nice, is basically comparing two unknowns – both from 2023 and 2024. Did Red Bull build a much slower car? That’s highly unlikely, so that should instantly make one look at the other teams’ times comparisons without drawing too many conclusions.

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