The wait is over as the beginning of pre-season testing for the 2023 Formula 1 season got underway at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain today.
All ten teams finally showed their cards by putting their new machinery to the test for a total of eight hours on track and all eyes were peeled from one end of the pits to the other as teams sniffed out any key changes.
There were plenty of things to take away from today from a first look at the rookies behind the wheel this season to a return of dominance for Red Bull early on.
So as the day winds to a close, here are some highlights ahead of Day Two in Bahrain – kicking off at 7:00 am Irish time.
Verstappen on top
The reigning world champion in the Red Bull stormed to the top of the testing timesheets across both sessions today and is looking comfortable as ever in the RB19.
While many fans expected a change to the car’s look, Sky Sports’ Ted Kravtiz described it as a ‘family resemblance’ between the RB19 and its predecessor, the RB18, with many people saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
Max Verstappen and Red Bull experienced “no issues” on Day One, topping both of Thursday’s sessions at the Sakhir circuit – which will host next weekend’s season opener – as he edged out Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso with the fastest time of 1:32.837s.
Verstappen also clocked up the most laps of the day after surpassing the 150-lap mark during testing as Red Bull was the only team not to do a driver switch.
Speaking after the session Verstappen said: “It was good. A lot of laps, so that’s of course what we wanted. It was basically a smooth day, with no issues.
“We could really focus on the car, try a few things, to understand also the new tyres for this year. We got loads of running during the day when it was really hot, or kind of hot, and in the evening as well – so a pretty okay day.”
Mercedes seem to solve porpoising issue
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of a competitive Mercedes on the grid, to give Red Bull a run for their money, and although it is far too soon to actually tell, the team has come on strides in terms of minimising the issue of porpoising.
After Day One on track, the team confirmed that the issue, which Toto Wolff recently said was so bad it was breaking their engines, seems to have subsided thanks to a higher ride height.
“There’s no bouncing, which is good news – apart from that big bump at the end of the straight!” Wolff said after testing.
“It’s a good starting point.”
He added: “We have a very solid base now to work from and try to optimise the car, which we haven’t done yet, it’s really just padding out, are there any areas that could be real performance hinderance like last year with the bouncing.”
Aston Martin meets early issues
It’s been a turbulent beginning to the 2023 campaign for Aston Martin after Lance Stroll announced he would be sitting preseason testing out due to an injury – and has not been confirmed for the opening Bahrain Grand Prix just yet.
The reigning F2 champion and current reserve driver, Felipe Drugovich, took the wheel in place of the Canadian today – but his day certainly didn’t go as planned.
He ground to a halt after experiencing an electrical issue just 10 minutes into the first session, which brought out the one and only red flag of the day.
The Brazilian still managed to complete 40 laps in the team’s new machinery, while teammate Fernando Alonso clock 60 by the end of the day.
Alonso’s say was also hampered due to floor damage which sent the two-time world champion back to the pits.