Max Verstappen on track for pre-season testing in Bahrain

2024 F1 pre-season testing debrief

F1 pre-season testing took place over three days at the Bahrain International Circuit and the prologue for the 2024 season didn’t disappoint. It was a week of firsts; we got our first taste of the latest challengers on track, a first look at the rebranded Stake F1 and RB teams in the flesh and got a first look at how the field might stack up when racing gets underway in earnest.

When describing reigning champion Max Verstappen, the word on everyone’s lips was ominous as he went fastest by over a second on the first day. There were signs of pace from others in the field, however, with the two Ferrari drivers topping the times on the remaining two days.



Day one

The story of day one of pre-season testing, much like the 2023 season, was about one driver, Max Verstappen. He was clear of the field before the end of the morning session, and by the end of the day, he was 1.1 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, utterly dominating the 5.412km circuit and completing 143 laps in the RB20.

Lando Norris in the McLaren placed himself second on the timesheets running in the afternoon session. Team-mate Oscar Piastri went ninth-fastest after completing 57 laps in the morning. Carlos Sainz was just one-tenth behind Norris in third, while his teammate Charles Leclerc also ran in the morning session and placed himself seventh.

Verstappen’s time may have got the paddock talking, but the second most impressive time on day one also came from the Red Bull family; Daniel Ricciardo raised a few eyebrows by going fourth fastest while the other RB of Yuki Tsunoda sat in 13th after 64 laps. Alpine focussed on high-fuel running on hard tyres, but Pierre Gasly ended the day fifth-fastest after picking up the pace in the closing moments of the afternoon while Esteban Ocon was 16th.

Lance Stroll capped off a positive first day for Aston Martin in sixth but not without incident; his left mirror fell off the car and into the path of Nico Hülkenberg. The Haas driver was unphased, continuing his programme to finish 18th, just behind team-mate Kevin Magnussen. The other Aston Martin driven by Fernando Alonso was close behind in eighth after 77 laps.

The Stake F1 drivers of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas were 10th and 14th respectively, while Williams endured a difficult first day with both drivers experiencing reliability issues that curtailed their running; Logan Sargeant also spun at Turn Nine but avoided contact with the barrier to finish 11th and Alexander Albon was 15th. George Russell was the sole Mercedes runner on Wednesday, focusing on long-distance running and finishing 12th.

Max Verstappen testing at the Bahrain International Circuit


Day two

Ferrari fans rejoice! Carlos Sainz drove the SF-24 to the top of the times on day two, setting the fastest lap of the week in the process – a 1:29.921. The Scuderia were also fastest during the morning with Leclerc, but he ended the day sixth. The Monegasque driver was responsible for dislodging a drain cover during the morning which caused a lengthy red flag delay. Because he lost track time, he ran for an extra 30 minutes in the afternoon.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez got his first taste of the 2024 car and after completing 109 laps, went second quickest, 0.758 seconds down on Sainz, but he was on a harder tyre compound than the Ferrari. Taking over at Mercedes was seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who duly went third fastest just four-tenths off the pace of Perez on the same compound of tyre. A rare mistake from the Brit during his late session qualifying simulation meant his best time went unimproved.  

Despite facing a fuel system issue, Norris was fourth closely followed by another impressive lap from RB’s Ricciardo. Although his fastest time was on the softer tyre, the Aussie’s long-run pace appeared competitive. Stroll was seventh for Aston Martin, then came Ocon, Bottas and Piastri who completed the top 10 in a rather subdued second day of testing.

Carlos Sainz at pre-season testing in Bahrain


Day three

Once again it was Ferrari on top for the third and final day of pre-season testing. Although Leclerc’s time wasn’t quicker than the one Sainz set a day prior on the Soft tyre, it was the fastest Medium tyre time by two hundredths over Max’s day one lap. The Spaniard meanwhile set the ninth fastest time on day three. Mercedes’ Russell wasn’t far behind Leclerc, either, just four hundredths off the ultimate pace.

An impressive lap on the softer compound tyre from Zhou was good enough to place him third ahead of Verstappen on the Mediums. The rebranded RB team recorded another intriguing time on the last day of testing, this time at the hands of Tsunoda two hundredths away from Verstappen’s time on the same tyre.

Albon, Piastri, Alonso, Sainz and Perez rounded out the top 10 while Norris overcame a clutch problem to record the 14th fastest time. Drain covers once again wreaked havoc with the schedule as another red flag delayed proceedings. In the end, the morning and afternoon sessions were combined and the official lunch break was removed.  

Charles Leclerc was the fastest car on the last day of pre-season testing

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